U.K.’s Anthony Bamford previously kept shares in Curacao. He and his family control construction-equipment maker JCB | By Benjamin Stupples
Anthony Bamford, the billionaire chairman of excavator maker JCB, has transferred his shares in the firm’s Caribbean holding companies to Switzerland, altering arrangements that fostered his family’s fortune for decades.
JCB Group Holdings Sarl, based in the Swiss canton of Vaud, now holds shares that the British tycoon and his family control in one of the world’s largest closely held construction-equipment makers, filings show. They previously managed the stock through entities based in Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean island that once flourished as a low-tax territory for foreign businesses and wealthy individuals.
The move illustrates the lengths many of the world’s richest people go to to protect their wealth. Two years ago, four Chinese tycoons transferred more than $17 billion into family trusts with the ownership structures involving various Caribbean entities, while a trio of tax havens support the wealth of Stefano Pessina, the outgoing chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
A spokesman for JCB and Bamford, who has a net worth of $6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, declined to comment.
The Curacao entities that previously controlled the JCB shares were set up in 1976. The territory was then a booming offshore financial center, partly because dividends paid to local firms by Dutch companies received favorable tax treatment, according to the Tax Justice Network. Curacao has since amended its laws to align with global standards, avoiding the risk of the European Union naming the territory on its tax haven blacklist. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing from JCB or the Bamford family.
Switzerland has also changed its tax regime to meet global standards, but still remains an attractive location for multinational firms like JCB, which has 22 factories worldwide. In addition, the European nation has agreements with more than 100 other countries to avoid double taxation, making it a compelling hub for international activity.
“There’s definitely longevity in Switzerland, and it’s unlikely to go on the EU’s blacklist,” said Mark Davies, a London-based tax adviser to rich individuals. “Plus, it has a great banking network.”
Bamford, 74, a Brexit supporter, has been chairman of the company his father founded since 1975. Other billionaire backers of the U.K.’s EU exit have also shifted their wealth since the nation voted to leave the trading bloc in 2016, with inventor James Dyson relocating to Singapore.
JCB reported 2019 revenue of 4.2 billion pounds ($5.6 billion), a 1% increase from a year earlier, filings show. The company’s sales slumped more than a third during the first half of 2020 from 2019 amid Covid-19 disruptions, but JCB said the pandemic won’t have “a material adverse effect.”