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Mike still richest but with half the money; Ashley fortune drops.

TOON owner Mike Ashley has seen his billion pound fortune cut in half over the last year.

The former billionaire, now a mere millionaire, tops the North East Rich List, set to be published in the Sunday Times this weekend.

But the 44-year-old Sports Direct owner is unlikely to be going hungry, as he still sits on a massive fortune of pounds 700m, making him the 60th richest person in the UK.

His declining wealth is put down to losses speculating on the share price of HBOS bank, property deals and his ownership of Newcastle United.

Despite the decline in his fortunes, the wealth of the region's super rich has bucked the national trend, growing by pounds 386m over the past 12 months - simply because of Ashley's inclusion for the first time. In total, 20 people from the North East and Cumbria are listed as being worth more than pounds 60m.

Ashley's fortune is still almost double that of the second placed Fenwick family, whose Newcastle-based department store saw increased profits of pounds 41.7m in 2007/08.

And new money edges out old with Dragons Den star Duncan Bannatyne, the man behind the chain of health clubs, pipping the Duke of Northumberland to third place in the list.

Bannatyne is actually the only person in the entire North East Rich List who has seen his wealth grow in the past year.

His wealth has grown by pounds 10m to pounds 350m.

But the region's mega rich pop stars Sting (sixth in the region) and Mark Knopfler (equal 19th) have both seen their fortunes drop.

Wallsend-born Sting has seen his wealth drop pounds 200m to pounds 180m, despite the $360m generated by The Police's reunion tour.

Mark Knopfler, the former Dire Straits guitarist, has seen his wealth drop from pounds 70m to pounds 60m in the period.

Former Toon owner Sir John Hall breaks into the list with his pounds 65m fortune, after the substantial drop in the level of wealth needed to make the richest 1,000 in Britain.

Ranked 863 nationally, the 76-year-old made pounds 55m in 2007, when he sold his stake in Newcastle United to Mike Ashley, clearing the way for Ashley to take over the club.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 24, 2009
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