‘Rishi Rich’: How the Sunaks made their fortune

New PM and wife are reportedly worth twice as much as King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort – but does it matter?

Narayana Murthy with wife Sudha and son Rohan
Narayana Murthy (right) with wife Sudha and son Rohan
(Image credit: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak’s arrival in No.10 has once again put his family’s wealth in the spotlight at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is pushing millions of families in Britain into debt.

Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, are reportedly worth around £730m between them – “roughly double the estimated £300m-£350m wealth of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort”, said The Guardian.

Sunak became a “multimillionaire in his mid-twenties”, according to The Sunday Times. He was a partner at the hedge fund TCI, where bosses “shared nearly £100m after an audacious stock market bet that lit the touchpaper on the 2008 financial crisis”.

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Tabloids “have dubbed the politician ‘Rishi Rich’, a play on the title of the kids' movie Richie Rich about the world's wealthiest boy,” said NewsWeek.

Believed to be one of the wealthiest MPs, Sunak’s personal fortune pales in comparison to that of his wife and her family.

Murty, whom he met while studying in the US at Stanford University and married in 2009, is the daughter of Indian billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy (who uses a different spelling for his surname). In May, the couple featured in The Sunday Times Rich List at No. 222 with a net worth of £730m. Murty’s 0.93% stake in the IT firm her father founded, Infosys, was said to be worth about £690m.

Who is N.R. Narayana Murthy?

One of India’s richest businessmen, Narayana Murthy is “often referred to as the ‘Steve Jobs of India’”, said The Independent, and hailed as the father of India’s IT boom.

He founded Infosys, which provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services, in 1981 using start-up capital of just $250. Today it operates in around 50 countries, including the UK, where it has public sector contracts and employs 10,000 people, reporting worldwide revenues of more than $13.5bn last year.

Having previously spoken about how the family did not have money for a television or non-essential goods when the children were growing up, Murthy’s rags-to-riches personal story “tracks closely with India’s own path to becoming a successful global IT hub”, said The Independent.

“Known for putting an emphasis on business ethics and corporate governance, at a time when nepotism was rife across many of Infosys’s competitors”, said the news site, he stepped down from Infosys in 2014 but maintains a minority stake, with one estimate by Forbes putting his net worth at £4.4bn.

Murthy has also served on the boards of major international corporations, including multinational banks HSBC and ICICI. He is also the chairman of Catamaran Ventures, an investment firm that manages over $1bn in assets.

Is Infosys a problem for Sunak?

When an investigation by The Guardian in 2020 first raised questions about the multimillion-pound portfolio of shareholdings and directorships held by Sunak and his wife, which had not been declared in the official register of ministers’ interests, the paper said it “could be seen to present a conflict, because Infosys is a contractor to the UK government and publicly funded organisations”.

According to the paper, since 2015 the firm has won taxpayer-funded work worth £22m and also worked for the Home Office, signing a framework agreement with Whitehall, which means it can be awarded contracts without competition.

Earlier this year, eyebrows were raised when it was claimed that Infosys was the main beneficiary of a £1bn trade deal signed between the UK and India in May 2021, something disputed by the fact-checking website Full Fact.

Does it matter that they’re so rich?

Questions about tax were “never likely to prove problematic for the Murthy family, given the strength of its reputation in India, built up over decades, but their huge wealth could continue to create problems for Sunak”, said The Independent, especially as “a member of a super-rich elite pitching to lead Britain through a brutal cost-of-living crisis”.

Sunak “confronted the questions about his personal wealth head-on”, reported The New York Times, in August, saying that while he was aware of his luck, he wasn’t “born like this”. He added: “I think in our country, we judge people not by their bank account; we judge them by their character and their actions.”

But Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for a nearby constituency to Sunak’s, has said a new swimming pool owned by the Sunaks – which The Guardian estimated could cost more than £14,000 a year to heat – showed that he couldn’t be “more out of touch” with the average voter, and was “living on another planet”.

When Sunak moves into No.10, it will be a week since the UK’s biggest food banks announced they were running out of food. “This contrast between wealth and poverty has not been so vivid for decades”, said Unherd’s Phil Tinline. If “we are headed for renewed austerity, it will be much harder for any politician to make the case for it than in 2010 – but all the more so for a man as rich as Rishi” he added.

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Jamie Timson is the UK news editor, curating The Week UK's daily morning newsletter and setting the agenda for the day's news output. He was first a member of the team from 2015 to 2019, progressing from intern to senior staff writer, and then rejoined in September 2022. As a founding panellist on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast, he has discussed politics, foreign affairs and conspiracy theories, sometimes separately, sometimes all at once. In between working at The Week, Jamie was a senior press officer at the Department for Transport, with a penchant for crisis communications, working on Brexit, the response to Covid-19 and HS2, among others.