Graham King, the millionaire who got rich thanks to asylum seekers

Canvey Island is located on the edge of the Thames estuary, about fifty kilometers east of London. It is there, among the land reclaimed from the sea and the coves that Jack King, a garden shed seller, settled his little family in the early 1960s. This entrepreneur, and great football fan, bought there a bankrupt campsite to turn it into a thriving mobile home rental business, called “Kings Park”, which he then sold for 32 million pounds (37 million euros) in 2007. The family’s fortune was made .

His son Graham was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps. He spent years working for Jack, who also had a taxi company, a car dealership and several nightclubs – before going it alone. In 1999, Graham launched real estate company Clearsprings.

Lucrative public markets

In the twenty years since, Clearsprings has won a series of highly lucrative public contracts to provide short-term accommodation, particularly for asylum seekers. The increase in the number of refugees – mostly from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq – more than doubled his company’s profits to 62.5 million pounds (73 million euros) for the year 2022. His business, of which he holds 97% of the shares, is so flourishing that at 57 years old Graham King finds himself on the list of Sunday Times of the 350 richest people in the United Kingdom, with a fortune estimated at 750 million pounds (880 million euros).

Not much is known about Graham. He runs Clearsprings from his office in a nondescript blue building off a highway near Southend-on-Sea (a seaside resort in Essex, east of London). There are not very many Kings living on Canvey Island anymore. His mother died in the 1970s and his father, Jack, in 2016.

But in the city – whose motto is Ex Mare dei gratia, which means “rising from the sea by the grace of God” – no one has forgotten the Kings. The family financed Canvey Island FC during its golden period, between 1992 and 2006, when Graham’s brother Jeff was the manager of the small football team.

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