Who is Akshata Murty? Meet Rishi Sunak's fabulously well-connected wife

Ms Murty is said to be worth more than King Charles III because of the 0.91 per cent she holds in her father's company Infosys

Rishi Sunak's wife Akshata Murty. Getty Images
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Much is made about the wealth of Akshata Murty, the wife of Britain’s new prime minister, who is said to be worth more than King Charles III.

Yet growing up in India, she did not benefit from the luxuries enjoyed by many elites, such as a chauffeur driven car, and was instead driven to school in an autorickshaw, like her classmates.

The family could have had one, if they wanted to.

They were by that time wealthy, thanks to their growing IT services company Infosys. But it was not always that way.

Ms Murty’s father, Narayana Murthy, who spells his surname differently to his daughter, recalled hearing about her birth in April 1980 from a colleague, as they were so poor at the time he could not afford a telephone.

“Your mother and I were young then and struggling to find our feet,” he wrote in a letter to his daughter.

Ms Murty was sent to live with her paternal grandparents when she was a few months old while her parents established their careers.

Her mother, Sudha, went on to become Tata Motors' first female engineer after famously complaining via a postcard to the chairman about the firm's stipulation that “lady candidates need not apply”.

And her father founded Infosys, which is now a $75 billion company, in 1981, a year after Ms Murty's birth.

What is Ms Murty's background?

When she was eventually brought to Mumbai, at the age of 2, her parents did their best to ensure she was given a good start. The couple had a son, Rohan, when she was 3 years old.

Television was banned in the house to ensure there was time for activities such as “studying, reading, discussions and meeting friends,” according to Legacy; Letters from eminent parents to their daughters.

Evenings between 8pm and 10pm were dedicated to “pursuits that brought the family together in a productive environment”.

The family grew rich, but shunned extravagances, and Ms Murty “made great friends with the ‘rickshaw uncle’”.

Britain's new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, with daughters Krisna, Anoushka and wife Akshata Murthy. Getty Images

When did she meet Rishi Sunak?

She went on to study economics and French at the top liberal Claremont McKenna College in California.

She earned a diploma at a fashion college, before working at Deloitte and Unilever, and later studied for an MBA at Stanford University, where she met Rishi Sunak.

Atypically for class-conscious India, where arranged marriages are still common, the couple were fine with Ms Murty's comparatively humble choice of husband, a doctor's son from Southampton.

Ms Murty's father said he was initially “a little sad and jealous” when he first heard about Mr Sunak, who was at the time was a Fulbright scholar with a first-class degree from Oxford.

But after meeting him he said Mr Sunak was “all that you had described him to be — brilliant, handsome, and, most importantly, honest”.

Their wedding in 2009 was described as being relatively modest by the standards of India’s elites, with 1,000 guests.

Ms Murty started out in finance in California, but later launched her own fashion label, Akshata Designs, which worked with artists in remote Indian villages.

“I believe we live in a materialistic society,” she told Vogue magazine. “People are becoming more conscious about the world they live in. Doing good is fashionable.”

The business collapsed after three years.

Her 0.91 per cent stake in Infosys has an estimated value of £690 million ($780m).

What is their net worth?

She is personally worth about £500m, while Mr Sunak’s wealth is valued at £200m.

Their wealth has proved to be a divisive topic for the UK public amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Murty, 42, has earned tens of millions in dividends in recent years, but her “non-domicile” status in the UK shielded some of this income from British taxes, saving her an estimated £20m as a result, according to some estimates.

Revelations that she had not been paying British tax on her foreign income due to being “non-domiciled”, a status available to foreign residents who do not see Britain as their permanent home, hurt Mr Sunak before his earlier bid for the top job in UK politics.

At the time a representative said Ms Murty was a citizen of India, “the country of her birth and parents' home. India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously”.

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty. EPA

“So, according to British law, Ms Murty is treated as non-domiciled for UK tax purposes. She has always and will continue to pay UK taxes on all her UK income.”

To assuage some of the resulting public anger that hurt her husband politically, Ms Murty said in April that she would pay UK tax on all her worldwide income.

“I do this because I want to, not because the rules require me to,” she tweeted. “My decision … will not change the fact that India remains the country of my birth, citizenship, parents' home and place of domicile. But I love the UK too.”

The couple — who have two daughters and a dog — live a lavish lifestyle, and were said to have spent £400,000 on a swimming pool at their country pad in the summer.

Mr Sunak was also spotted wearing Prada loafers on a campaign visit to a rubble-strewn construction site in July.

And the couple have recently been spotted attending events at LouLou’s, described as one of the most exclusive private members' clubs in London.

They own at least four properties, including a £7m five-bedroom house in Kensington. They also own a flat in Santa Monica, California.

It is not known whether they will move into Downing Street, which would represent a significant downsize from their sprawling £2m Grade II-listed Georgian manor house in Yorkshire.

Commentators have said Mr Sunak may be the first prime minister to shun a permanent base in 10 Downing Street, dividing his time between there and the couple’s home in West London to be closer to the children’s school.

Ms Murty chose to live with daughters Krishna and Anoushka in their five-bedroom town house in Kensington during Mr Sunak’s final months as chancellor.

And having already experienced the novelty of living on Britain’s most famous street, they may not choose to live there again.

Updated: October 25, 2022, 1:12 PM
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