How JD Sports boss Stephen Rubin went from Liverpool shop to £6billion fortune

After most of us spent lockdown wearing more casual clothes, it is no surprise that the family that made a lot of them are now worth £6.39billion.

Stephen Rubin, 83, owns 55% of JD Sport, as well as Berghaus, Ellesse, Kickers and Mitre, among other retail brands.

You might not have heard of the fairly unassuming billionaire, who seems to like keeping himself to himself.

But money talks, and he and his family are currently at 23rd place on the latest Sunday Times Rich List. They earned an extra £2.16billion in a single year and rose from 29th place in 2020.

The family business, Pentland, now owns a share of JD Sports worth £4.796billion. JD's share price has risen by 47% over the past year.

In turn, JD Sports owns brands including Blacks, Go Outdoors and Millets, and has 2,500 stores around the world.

a man smiling for the camera: Stephen Rubin © Internet Unknown Stephen Rubin

Rubin is chairman of Pentland and his son, Andy, 56, is deputy chairman of the company, which employs around 50,000 people. Rubin is married, with four children.

His company had humble beginnings, starting life in 1932 as a footwear shop called the Liverpool Shoe Company.

In 1958 Rubin left University College London with a law degree, then unsuccessfully stood as a Liberal Party MP candidate in 1959.

He then faced facts and joined the rest of his family in the Liverpool Shoe Company.

In 1965 the company claims to have invented the stiletto heel, a sort of dangerously thin high heel that became associated with glamour and women's fashion.

However, this would likely be disputed by Italian designer Roger Vivier - if he were still alive - who claims he came up with it in the 1950s for Christian Dior.

a display in a store: A JD Sports shop © Alamy Stock Photo A JD Sports shop

The company was then renamed Pentland Group in 1973. Its current status can be traced back to making one - very savvy - decision.

In 1981 it bought 55% of sports company Reebok for £50,000.

At the time Reebok was an unremarkable American company making sports shoes, but it had two big tricks up its sleeve that would make it world famous.

Firstly, in 1982 it launched a revolutionary trainer, the Reebok Freestyle. This was the first shoe designed specifically for the 1980s aerobics boom, and became hugely popular.

It was also the first trainer marketed at women, though many men wore it too, and it is still made today.

Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, Andy Reed posing for the camera: London Charity Swim Between Mps And Peers Held At City Of London School © Nigel Howard/ANL/REX/Shutterstock London Charity Swim Between Mps And Peers Held At City Of London School

This booted Reebok into the mainstream, and it then came up with innovation number two - the first coloured running shoes.

Three years after Pentland bought it, Reebok made up 70% of its turnover.

In 1993 Pentland sold its share for a whopping £400million.

Another Pentland-owned brand, Speedo, has also been under the spotlight.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 98% of medallists wore Speedos. One of them, Michael Phelps, was the first to win eight gold medals in a single games. Then in the 2012 London Olympics, swimmers wearing Speedos won 57% of the medals.

a person standing posing for the camera: A JD Sports store © Alamy Stock Photo A JD Sports store

But Rubin has won a few awards of his own.

In 2003 he was awarded an OBE for services to business and human rights, while in 2008 the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame gave him a lifetime achievement award.

But the organisation that really should give Rubin a medal is HM Revenue & Customs, as he is among the most-taxed people in the country.

In January 2019 he paid £181.6million, according to the Sunday Times, making him the top UK taxpayer.

This fell to £143.9million in 2020 - still putting him at second on the list.

See the full Sunday Times Rich List, here.

How JD Sports boss Stephen Rubin went from Liverpool shop to £6billion fortune