Companies behind the brands: Spotlight on Dyson
James Dyson turned the vacuum cleaner into a design icon and to many he is a brilliant inventor and entrepreneur. But he is also a high-profile Brexit supporter and one of the few prominent businessmen who was. It was widely reported that he then left the UK in 2019 and moved Dyson’s headquarters from Wiltshire to Singapore where he owns the country’s most expensive penthouse costing $79 million.
Dyson said the move wasn’t for tax reasons. (Singapore is on our list of tax havens.) He said it was because most of Dyson’s sales and operations were now in that region. The company stopped manufacturing its products in the UK in 2002 and now makes everything in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. But it still apparently employs around 3,000 people in the UK doing research and development.
He also said the move to Singapore wasn’t to guard against Brexit, especially the sort of no-deal Brexit he once argued for. Singapore had, however, signed a trade agreement with the EU, in October 2018, which would give Dyson better access to EU markets than if it had stayed in no-deal Britain.
James Dyson used to support British membership of the euro. In 2000, he said that it would be “suicidal” for Britain not to join the euro. But his opposition to the EU started in 2014, only days after new EU standards for vacuum cleaners were introduced. He complained that the EU Energy Labelling scheme discriminated against his bagless vacuums and in 2018 he finally won a 5-year-long legal battle to have the regulation overturned on the grounds that it misled consumers.
He had already decided to back the Leave campaign in 2016 after he lost his first legal challenge to the Labelling rules. Since then, Dyson has repeatedly advocated stripping away European rights and protections because they stifle business. From our point of view, many of these rules are in place to protect consumers and the environment.
James Dyson was listed as the richest man in the UK by the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List, with his fortune estimated at £16.2 billion. He increased his net worth by £3.6 billion in one year.
Some consumers may also be deterred by his long-term support for the Conservative Party. It's also come to light that he personally lobbied Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ensure that the tax position of Dyson employees who were temporarily deployed to the UK to work on ventilators during the pandemic would not be liable to pay tax (under the statutory residency test).
Beeswax Dyson Farming is an agricultural company owned by James Dyson. It has four arable farms and 35,000 acres of farmland making James Dyson number 25 in the top 50 UK landowners. Dyson claims that its farms are sustainable and regenerative and are “innovating farming for the future”.
Dyson invested £2 billion in an electric car project which it was going to make in Singapore. But Dyson’s electric car dream ended abruptly in 2019 after four years and production of a driveable prototype, when Dyson couldn’t make the figures stack up.