Paul Sykes (businessman)

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Paul Sykes
Born30 May 1943 (1943-05-30) (age 75)
Barnsley, England

Paul Sykes (born 30 May 1943) is an English businessman, political donor, and philanthropist. He is a noted opponent of the European Union and a donor of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). He previously supported the Conservative Party, but left because of the party's support of the Maastricht Treaty.


Born in Barnsley, Sykes was the son of a miner and left school with no qualifications. He had various manual jobs before setting up a business at the age of 18 to dismantle old buses and sell the engines for fishing junks to the Far East. He later moved into bus, coach and truck dealing in the North. Sykes then moved into Property, developing industrial, office and warehouse properties first in London Docklands and then in the North including Wakefield, Salford, Leeds, Rotherham and ultimately founded the Meadowhall shopping complex in Sheffield, which was at the time was Britain's largest ever retail shopping mall. In 1999 Sykes sold Meadow Hall for £1.17 billion. His internet firm Planet Online was for a time Britain's largest internet service provider. In 1998 Sykes sold it for £85 million to Energis.[1]

In 2015, his wealth was estimated at some £690 million.[2]


Sykes started in politics in 1975, and was chairman of Barnsley Conservative Party. he served on the Yorkshire Conservative Regional Council for many years, when the Conservative Party was led by Margaret Thatcher.

Sykes left the Conservative Party in 1991 in a dispute with John Major over the Maastricht Treaty. Sykes is estimated to have donated £8 million opposing the Euro and to Eurosceptic campaigns.

In the 1997 general election he selectively funded eurosceptic Conservative candidates, and in 1998 pledged to "use every means possible" to persuade British voters to say no in a referendum on the single currency, saying he would "raise hellfire to get the message across". The following year he began making large donations to the cross-party Democracy Movement, founded by Lady Annabel Goldsmith as a successor to the Referendum Party. He also donated £500,000 to Denmark's successful anti-euro campaign and £65,000 to the successful Irish No to the Lisbon Treaty campaign.

In 2000, Sykes supported the Conservative Party, led at the time by William Hague, but left the party because of a disagreement on not ruling out, joining the Euro.

Sykes is a vehement opponent of the European Union and is noted for his belief that it represents an undemocratic, bureaucratic, super state in the making.

Sykes then donated almost £1,500,000 to UKIP for advertising during the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, making him the primary source of funding for the party.[3] He subsequently admitted that UKIP's fourfold increase in seats at the election was a result of the party having "more loot" than the others.[4] When Robert Kilroy-Silk, elected as one of UKIP's Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), criticised the leadership of Roger Knapman and expressed an interest in replacing him, Sykes announced his intention to cease funding of UKIP and appeared with Kilroy-Silk in a television interview to discuss the party and its leadership and made it clear that he would not support Kilroy-Silk.

On 17 November 2013, Sykes announced that he would do "whatever it takes" to help make the UK Independence Party (UKIP) be successful in the 2014 European Parliament elections.[5] Sykes planned with Nigel Farage, a poster, leaflet and technology campaign across Britain costing Sykes £1.650,000 UKIP won the UK European Elections, electing 24 MEP's, which amounted to over 4 million votes, which was the first time in 100 years that an outside party had won a British Election. With the General Election approaching in 2015, the conservatives under David Cameron decided to give a national Referendum on the membership of the European Union.

In 2016, Sykes and Farage planned a nationwide poster and technology campaign, costing around £1,800,000, campaigning to Leave the European Union.


After treatment for the disease at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore in 2000, he funded the construction of a specialist prostate cancer unit at St James's University Hospital, Leeds.[2] Sykes donated over £1m to the restoration of the Royal Hall in Harrogate. He funded Sir Ranulph Fiennes' expeditions on the Eiger for the British Heart Foundation, as well as the Everest Challenge and Marathon des Sables for Marie Curie Cancer Care raising millions for the charity.

Sykes now spends most of his time on environmental issues including work with Durrell wildlife conservation trust which is an international body dealing with endangered species. He also has an interest in preventing deforestation.

Personal life[edit]

Sykes met and married Valeria when he was 24; they are currently divorced after 44 years of marriage. Sykes has vowed not to leave any of his fortune to his children, except for buying them houses, to encourage them to make their own way in the world.[6]

Sykes lived in a property just outside Ripon, North Yorkshire.


  1. ^ "Profile: Paul Sykes". BBC News. 5 October 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b Perthen, Amanda (21 January 2012). "I would sooner have stayed a tyre-fitter. Money just brings a load of trouble: One of Britain's richest self-made men reveals his anguish after splitting from wife of 44 years". Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  3. ^ "UKIP outspent Labour on EU poll". BBC News. 22 December 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  4. ^ The Times (28 June 2004)
  5. ^ "Tycoon Paul Sykes backs UKIP European election campaign". BBC News. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  6. ^ Rowe, Mark (5 October 2007). "Rich kids get legacy of fear and failure". The Independent. Retrieved 15 December 2014.