A Leonardo da Vinci painting, a Country Park and a secrecy jurisdiction – the offshore interests of the Scott family.

A Leonardo da Vinci painting, a Country Park and a secrecy jurisdiction – the offshore interests of the Scott family.
by Andy Wightman and Carole Ross
15.03.16

 

Buccleuch Estates Ltd.

 

Mr Richard Scott (sometimes referred to as the Duke of Buccleuch) is frequently cited as the owner of the largest extent of private land in the United Kingdom. Yet, this has never been entirely accurate. The 242,000 acres of land in Scotland is owned not by Mr Scott, but mainly by a company called Buccleuch Estates Ltd.

 

The shares in Buccleuch Estates Ltd. are not owned by Mr Scott and his family but by two companies – Anderson Strathern Nominees Ltd and MDS Estates Ltd.

 

Anderson Strathern Nominees Ltd. is a dormant company which is wholly owned by Anderson Strathern Asset Management Ltd. Anderson Strathern Asset Management Ltd. is wholly owned by Anderson Strathern LLP which, in turn is owned by the 53 partners in the law firm.

 

MS Estates Ltd. is wholly owned by Anderson Strathern Nominees Ltd. though the Directors include Mr Scott and other family members

 

Anderson Strathern Nominees Ltd. is ….. (but you know this).

 

So the ultimate owner of Buccluech Estates Ltd are 53 solicitors?

 

Well, not quite. Because what the Nominees do is to act on behalf of persons unknown on their behalf. These persons are likely to be members of the Scott family but we can’t know because the arrangements are not made public.

 

The first inkling I ever got that there was something odd about Buccleuch’s arrangements was 20 years ago in 1995. I was helping Philip Beresford compile the Sunday Times Rich List and he faxed me a copy of a letter he had received from Richard Scott’s father.

 

Dear Sir,

 

Much as I would like to be No. 33 in your chart of the richest 500, I fear I am there under false pretences.

 

As you rightly mention the calculation is based upon a hypothetical valuation of works of art. What you may not realise is that if I were to sell items in the collection, 80% of the proceeds would go straight to the Treasury. This is because 80% was the rate applicable to my father’s estate when he died in 1973. 

 

My worth on that score should therefore be reduced from £200m to £40m and as I own no shares in Buccleuch Estates Ltd., I might find myself level-pegging with Gordon Baxter and Sean Connery. 

 

Can you please take this into account next time? 

 

In recent years the top rate of inheritance tax was reduced to 40% but even this would affect the positioning of many others whose worth is based upon art collections. 

 

Yours faithfully 

 

Buccleuch

 

Two things stood out in this letter which would later become of interest. Buccleuch’s art works were the subject of a heritage tax exemption (meaning that the public could have access at certain times in exchange for a deferral of inheritance tax) and that Buccleuch, despite being regarded as the owner of Buccleuch Estates, admits that he owned no shares in the company.

 

A few years later and at his request, I had a private meeting with a senior adviser to Buccleuch. In exchange for some intelligence he wanted on the likely impact of land reform, I requested information on who really owns Buccleuch Estates. I was told that it was controlled “by the family”, that there were “firewalls” between different parts of the business and that there were “offshore interests”.

 

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