OBITUARY – Sir Richard Sutton, Bt
Paternalist owner of country estates and London hotels
SIR RICHARD SUTTON, 9TH BT, who has been stabbed to death in his Dorset home aged 83, was a landowner with extensive estates in Berkshire and Lincolnshire as well as hotels and other property assets in central London.
Fortune of more than £300m
Sutton’s principal estate at Benham near Newbury extended to more than 6,000 acres. It had been acquired in 1868 by his great-grandfather, the fourth baronet, who enlarged its Georgian mansion beside the river Kennet – originally designed by Henry Holland and set in parkland laid out by Capability Brown – to provide more than 30 bedrooms.
The house was sold in 1982, shortly after Sir Richard inherited, to become a corporate headquarters. In the nearby estate village of Stockcross, the Lord Lyon pub was named after a racehorse, also owned by the fourth baronet, that won a Triple Crown – the Derby, the 2000 Guineas and the St Leger – in 1866.
The combined Sutton agricultural estates were listed in 2005 as 14th highest in the list of UK recipients of EU farm subsidies, at more than £1 million. Another broad stretch of farmland at Stainton-le-Vale on the Lincolnshire Wolds has been partially in Sutton ownership since the 16th Century. The property at Higher Langham in Dorset where Sir Richard met his violent death was a more recent addition to the portfolio.
Though often described as a hotelier, Sir Richard was an owner of hotel real estate rather than a hands-on operator. In Mayfair, where the family have been landlords since the 19th Century, he acquired in 2014 the leasehold of the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane hotel, run by the Starwood group; the following year he added the leasehold of the Athenaeum in Piccadilly, of which he was already the freeholder, and financed a stylish facelift.
He also owned three boutique hotels under the MGallery brand associated with the French hospitality group Accor: the Francis in Bath, the Queens in Cheltenham and the Castle in Windsor. In 2019 he sold Film House in Wardour Street, Soho, to WeWorks, the US “shared workspace” business, for £95 million. There were other assets in Scotland and North America.
A notable example of inconspicuous wealth in the English landed gentry, the Sutton fortune was estimated in 2020 at more than £300 million. Sir Richard was a paternalist who treated estate workers and tenants as an extended family and whose holding company declared as its purpose “to act as honourable long-term custodians, to protect the heritage created over past centuries”.
Richard Lexington Sutton was born on April 27 1937 and was educated at Stowe. He was the son of Sir Robert Sutton, 8th Bt, whom he succeeded in 1981, and his wife Gwyneth, née Gover.
An earlier Sir Robert (1671-1746) was ambassador to France and the Ottoman Empire. Sir Robert’s son Richard was an Under-Secretary of State and member of parliament successively for St Albans, Sandwich and Boroughbridge; he was created a baronet (of Norwood Park, Nottinghamshire) in 1772. More tentatively, the family’s descent has been traced to a Norman seigneur, Syward de Sutton, in 12th Century Holderness.
Richard Sutton lived quietly in his Dorset village community; in younger days he enjoyed skiing, sailing, tennis and swimming. He married, in 1959, Fiamma Ferrari, who came from Rome. They were separated in 2000 and later divorced; he is survived by their son David, born in 1960, who inherits the baronetcy, and daughter Caroline.
He married secondly Mrs Anne Schrieber, a physiotherapist, who was also injured in the attack in which Sir Richard died – for which a suspect arrested by the police after a dramatic car chase from Dorset to London has been named as Anne’s 34-year-old son Thomas.
Sir Richard Sutton, 9th Bt, born April 27 1937, died April 7 2021