Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 19:05 UK

Money matters for ex-trainspotter

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The downturn has been hitting some of the UK's richest citizens

Twenty years ago train-spotter Philip Beresford turned his notebook and gaze away from station platforms and towards the UK's seriously rich individuals.

Since then he has scrutinised accounts and balance sheets to compile the annual Sunday Times Rich List.

And the 59-year-old, a former PhD student, has no plans to retire yet.

After his obsession with trains he is now "a rich spotter, and instead of collecting Castle class locomotives, I'm collecting millionaires".

Mr Beresford added: "It's exactly the same thing. I was a train-spotter and now I'm a rich spotter.

"You just have to have the mentality to keep doing it when a normal person would run away screaming. Nobody else in their right minds would do it."

Online accounts

Mr Beresford is a former deputy business editor at the Sunday Times.

He also edited Management Today magazine before beginning his life as the rich list compiler in 1989.

The advent of the internet age has made his job so much easier since then.

"I used to have to go to Companies' House and spent £200 to £300 a time getting microfiches out," he said.

"Now I can get accounts out day or night online."

PhD research at the British Library newspaper archive in Colindale, north London, taught him the value of picking up tiny little bits of information and "not being intimidated by the size of the task ahead".

Recession bites

Last year - while the effects of the global downturn were just starting to bite - the top 1,000 richest people in the country had more than £400bn between them, up almost £53bn on 2007.

The top 1,000 now have £258bn between them, it estimates.

Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and his family topped the list with £27.7bn, up £8bn on 2007.

This year, while Mittal remains top - but with £10.8bn.

The list shows how many of the UK's very richest have been hit by the recession.

Details already released show that Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, who made his fortune in sports goods retailing, saw his wealth fall by a half from last year, down from £1.4bn to £700m.

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