Murthy, Akshata

Overview

Akshata Murthy is married to the United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, with whom she has two daughters. Mr Sunak has been widely tipped as a possible future British Prime Minister.

Murthy was born in April 1980 in Hubli, a small town 250 miles north of Bangalore.  Her upbringing was heavily influenced by her paternal grandparents, as her mother and father built the software firm Infosys. Her father, Nagvara Murthy, was Chief Executive of Infosys from 1981 to 2002.

By 2019, Infosys’ revenues had grown to $11.8 Billion turning Akshata’s father into a prominent Indian billionaire.  Akshata herself, reportedly owns a share in Infosys, one which has been estimated to make her richer than the Queen.

Since her husband, Rishi Sunak, became the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, her various investments and business interests have come under media scrutiny.

Rishi Sunak’s Wife

With swathes of Britain slightly infatuated with ‘Dishy Rishi’ Sunak, you will no doubt be disappointed to discover that the Chancellor is already taken.  In 2020, Mr Sunak, had been voted Britain’s sexiest MP.

Akshata Murthy first met Sunak when the couple studied at Stanford University in America. Sunak was studying for an MBA at Stanford on a Fulbright scholarship.

Murthy and Sunak were married at a two-day traditional wedding ceremony in 2009, in Bangalore.

Initially basing themselves in California, the couple now live with their two children in Yorkshire and London. Although, according to The Times, Rishi and Akshata own ‘at least four properties’.

Allegra Stratton, the former Downing Street Press Secretary is an old-friend of Sunak, and the godparent of the family’s two children.

Fashion Label

Murthy runs a fashion label called ‘Akshata Designs’. Murthy loved clothes as a child which was said to baffle her ‘no-nonsense software engineer mother’, Sudha Murthy.

Akshata Murthy has previously been shot by Vogue magazine, and declared in an interview with the magazine in 2011 that, ‘I’m about the story behind a particular garment, its authenticity, craftsmanship and protecting a rich heritage’.

Murthy has previously described fashion as her passion and claimed that she couldn’t imagine being engaged in anything else.

Wealth

Akshata Murthy is the daughter of Narayana Murthy, the co founder of Bangalore IT company Infosys.  Narayana Murthy has been dubbed ‘the Bill Gates of India’.  Akshata Murthy’s father was listed in 2012 by Fortune magazine as one of the world’s 12 most successful entrepreneurs.

Alongside owning her fashion label, Murthy’s daughter reportedly owns 0.91% of the shares in Infosys. Given the market value of Infosys in late 2020, it was suggested that Akshata Murthy’s financial holdings in the company equated to a wealth of around £430 million.

The Murthy family are also reported to have a holding in Amazon India.

Non domicile status

In April 2022, the Independent newspaper claimed that Akshata Murty had claimed non-domicile status in the UK, something that the paper suggested allowed her to save on her 2020 tax bill.

The non domicile status was said to occur because Murty is a citizen of India, the country of her birth and parent’s home.  India does not allow it citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously, and so according to British law, Ms Murty is treated as non domiciled for UK tax purposes.

A spokesperson for Ms Murty said, “She has always and will continue to pay UK taxes on all her income”.  Sky News reported that Murty pays foreign taxes on her foreign income.

Murty’s tax status was criticised by the Labour Party with party treasury spokesperson, Tulip Siddiq MP saying, “It is staggering that his [the Chancellor’s] family may have been benefiting from tax reduction schemes”.  The revelations come as Murty’s husband, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was coming under pressure for introducing a rise in National Insurance and an increase in the cost of living.

In April 2022, Sunak told the BBC that he found the focus on his wife ‘very upsetting’ comparing himself with the actor Will Smith, who reacted angrily to comments about his wife during the March 2022 Oscar ceremony.

Shortly after the non domicile allegations, Ms Murty was reported as being in the process of changing her tax arrangements such that she would now pay UK tax on all her worldwide income going forward.

Russian investments

In March 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the decision by many Western companies to stop operating in Ukraine, Akshata Murthy’s investment in Infosys attracted public attention. Murthy was reported as owning a £500 million stake in the Indian IT consultancy firm, one which continued to operate an office and has one of its delivery centres in Moscow.

The continuing presence of Infosys in Russia received attention given that Murthy’s husband, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak had publicly stated, “I am urging firms to think very carefully about their investments in Russia and how they may aid the Putin regime”.

Subsequently aasked about his wife’s shares in Infosys and whether this flew in the face of his own advice to businesses, Rishi Sunak told Sky News, that, “I’m an elected politician and I’m here to talk to you about what I’m responsible for. My wife is not”.  Rejecting suggestions that, because of the investment, his family could be benefitting from Putin’s regime, Mr Sunak said: “No, I really don’t think that’s the case.

Furlough Scheme

Soon after his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020, Rishi Sunak was thrust into the national spotlight because of his role in managing the British economy through the Coronavirus pandemic.

Crucially, Mr Sunak was known for fronting the UK government’s Furlough scheme that aimed to provide financial support for struggling companies.

It has been reported that Infosys took part in this scheme and used it to furlough approximately 3% of the Company’s UK staff during parts of 2020. Akshata Murthy’s luxury clothing store in London was also said to have legitimately used the scheme to cover 80% of some staff’s salaries during the period.

In the face of claims that Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not appropriately declare his wife’s interests before he unveiled the furlough plans, the Treasury responded to the media focus on his family’s financial wealth, saying Sunak ‘followed the ministerial code to the letter’.