UK billionaire Jim Ratcliffe's $49 million Icelandic salmon grab of provokes fury

Britain's fifth-richest man has bought large parts of the rugged island – and upset its farmers in the process

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10: INEOS Founder and Chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe (L) reacts during a press conference regarding INEOS and Mercedes future partnership at The Royal Automobile Club on February 10, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

BUCHANTY, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 22: Migrating salmon are seen leaping at Buchanty Spout on the River Tay in Perthshire on October 22, 2020 in Buchanty, Scotland. The salmon are returning upstream from the sea where they have spent between two and four winters feeding, with many covering huge distances to return to the fresh waters to spawn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Jim Ratcliffe has stirred a revolt among Iceland’s farming community after purchasing huge parts of the country’s wilderness in a drive to conserve North Atlantic salmon.

Since 2016 Britain’s fifth-richest man has lavished $49 million on the deals, accounts from his holding company Halicilla show.

So wild have Icelanders been driven by the salmon grab, new laws have been introduced to prevent him acquiring any more.

Icelandic wrath is unsurprising. Contained in Mr Ratcliffe's sizeable portfolio is land next to the breathtaking River Hofsa, a favourite fishing haunt of the young Prince Charles and depicted in the fourth series of Netflix series The Crown.

The billionaire salmon saviour has also snapped up angling rights on the Hafralonsa, Svalbardsa, Miofjaroara and Vesturdalsa rivers in the north-east of the island.

"Ratcliffe is now the biggest private landowner in Iceland by far," Icelandic financial journalist Sigrun Davidsdottir told the Daily Mail.

“He has no connections to the community and it has caused a lot of public concern over the land’s future use.”

She said his commitment to salmon conservation also rang hollow given his ownership of Ineos, one the world’s largest petrochemical companies.

It felt like “greenwashing”, she said.

2AHN5FA The coastline of Mjoifjordur  were Hofsa river joins the Atlantic Ocean, Austurland, Fjardabyggd, Eastern Iceland. Alamy
The breathtaking River Hofsa - to which Jim Ratcliffle has angling rights -  was a favourite fishing haunt of the young Prince Charles. Alamy

But Gisli Asgeirsson, director of the Strengur Angling Club, which also falls under Mr Ratcliffe's auspices, told the Daily Mail it was "ludicrous" to suggest Mr Ratcliffe's Six Rivers Conservation Project was about anything other than conservation.