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In July 2012 Sigrid’s younger brother, Hans Kristian, was arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs.Searching his home in Belgravia, London, police found the decomposing body of his wife, Eva, in an upstairs room where it had lain for two months, behind a locked door, after Eva had died of a heart attack.
‘So money was never the focus for us.’ In 1982 her father moved his family to Britain to avoid Sweden’s punitive tax rate.Rausing first entered the world of publishing in 2005 when along with her husband she founded a small publisher, Portobello Books (at the same time, Abraham founded his own film production company, Portobello Films).Later that year Rausing acquired Granta Books, and the literary journal Granta, from Rea Hederman, who also owned the New York Review of Books.Under Rausing’s tenure, and the direction of its publishing executive Philip Gwyn Jones, Granta Books went from strength to strength: last year the company won the Man Booker Prize for the first time with The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, and also the Women’s Prize (formerly the Orange Prize and now the Bailey’s), also for the first time, with AM Homes’s May We Be Forgiven.All in all more than a dozen books were shortlisted for different prizes.At the same time, costs on the magazine, which has a circulation of 30-50,000 around the world, were ‘spiralling out of control’ (she declines to say by how much).
Following the departures, Rausing took over full executive control of the company, becoming the publisher of Granta Books and the acting editor of the magazine (a position she has formalised). ‘Well, it is much more involving, more interesting, and more fun to be the editor of the magazine than to be the publisher,’ she says.
She has a teenage son by a previous marriage, to Dennis Hotz, a South African publisher and art dealer. There is Aubrey House in London, a spectacularly beautiful Georgian mansion, tucked away behind a high wall in Holland Park, which she bought in 1998 for a reported £20 million, and which is said to have the second largest private garden in London after Buckingham Palace. I don’t know if it has ever been measured.’ She loves the garden, but as to gardening, ‘I can’t bend down.
I have a back problem.’ There is a farm in Sussex, which she regards as the proper family home, and where she spends much of her time, walking her three dogs. I need to walk.’ Her sister, Lisbet, who is also a noted philanthropist, lives nearby; as does their father, Hans, who is now 88, and lives on an estate described by its architect as ‘a palace’, and who, according to an article in Tatler, gets his hair cut at the local barber and has been known to ask for the OAP discount.
As the benefactor of one of Britain’s largest private charitable trusts she is responsible for the dispensation of some £22 million a year.
There are two things that everybody knows about the Rausing family.
So was this really a question all along, I ask, of Rausing being Roman Abramovich but wanting to be José Mourinho? ‘But I didn’t know that.’ Rausing grew up in the quiet university town of Lund. ‘There were a handful of wealthy families in Sweden and we were one of them,’ she says.