Billionaire James Dyson switches residency back to UK from Singapore

·3-min read
British industrial design engineer and founder of the Dyson company, James Dyson, poses next to the model of an engine during a photo session at a hotel in Paris on October 11, 2018. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images)
James Dyson has switched his residency from Singapore to the UK, reversing a move he made about two years ago. (PHOTO: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images)

By Ben Stupples

(Bloomberg) — James Dyson has switched his residency from Singapore to the UK, reversing a move he made about two years ago after his technology firm revealed plans to relocate its headquarters to the city-state.

Dyson, 73, now primarily lives in the UK, according to filings for companies the billionaire controls including his family office Weybourne. Similar filings cited Singapore for the entrepreneur’s residency in 2019 after his company said it would move its head office there as the maker of bagless vacuum cleaners focused increasingly on Southeast Asia.

“We do not comment on private family matters and nothing has changed in respect of the company,” a Dyson spokesperson said. “The structure of the group and the business rationale underpinning it are unaltered.”

Dyson, a prominent Brexit supporter who’s worth US$29 billion, faced criticism from UK lawmakers for relocating his company. Now he’s at the centre of another controversy after he texted Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March 2020 to get assurance that his staff wouldn’t face a change in their tax situation if they came to the UK to help make ventilators in response to COVID-19, according to a BBC report.

The billionaire wrote to the Treasury, but then reached out to Johnson, sparking concern over whether the Prime Minister followed procedures to disclose the messages. Johnson was forced to defend his actions in parliament on Wednesday.

“I make absolutely no apology at all for shifting heaven and earth and doing everything I possibly could as I think any Prime Minister would in those circumstances,” he said during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The PM - Dyson texts pic.twitter.com/NEXl1VCIK3

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) April 21, 2021

Dyson said in a statement Wednesday that it was Johnson who initiated contact last year at a time of “national crisis.” The ventilator project cost his company about 20 million pounds (US$28 million), required staff from Singapore and the UK to work around the clock, and that their exchanges were disclosed at the time to UK officials.

“It is absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules,” he stated. “Neither Dyson nor Weybourne sought or received any benefit from the emergency ventilator.”

Dyson has bolstered his presence in Singapore in the past two years, liquidating UK companies and hiring staff in Singapore for his family office. He paid about US$54 million in 2019 to acquire a penthouse in the city-state but sold it at a loss late last year. He still has extensive holdings in the UK, with his agricultural firm overseeing 637 acres of woodland and about 150 homes. He also owns a country estate in southwest England.

The firm previously said it intends to hire more than 2,000 people in Southeast Asia over the coming years but said in July it will cut 900 of its 14,000 jobs globally due to the pandemic. The company said this month it will “shortly” move into a new global headquarters at an old power station in Singapore.

(Adds Dyson response in seventh paragraph)

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