The Garfield Weston Foundation has tripled in size in five years, making it the second richest charity in England and Wales, according to new figures on charity investment assets.
An analysis of data collected from the Charity Commission website, carried out by Civil Society News and Charity Finance magazine, found that the ten largest charities by assets in the UK are now worth more than £50bn.
Of these charities, Garfield Weston is the second largest and the fastest growing. Its total assets have increased from £4.1bn in 2011, to £12.7bn in 2016. Last year its assets grew from £10.8bn to £12.7bn.
The charity owns 79 per cent of a holding company which is the majority shareholder of the Associated British Foods, a FTSE 100 company. Associated British Foods itself owns a number of prominent brands, including the budget supermarket Primark. The holding company also owns a number of other companies including Heal’s and Fortnum & Mason.
Philippa Charles, director of Garfield Weston, said the foundation was set up with a permanent endowment. This means it can only distribute the relatively small amount of income from its investments, rather than any of the capital growth.
This means its grant-giving is small relative to the size of its assets. The charity gave away just under £60m last year in more than 1,600 small grants. Its emphasis is on supporting core costs and ensuring that charitable funding reaches regions where the sector is less supported.
"Our structure was deliberately created for long term growth and for stability," she said. "We cannot sell but don't want or need to as it is this structure that has provided the platform for long term growth of the underlying asset.
"If one looks at donation growth since we started 59 years ago, then it's over 13 per cent a year."
The full analysis of charitable assets will appear in the February edition of Charity Finance magazine.