PORT Sunlight's links with its founding family have been severed in a multi-million pound deal.

Consumer goods giant Unilever have bought the rights left in family trusts by William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Leverhulme for £715m.

The payout will be split between 30 of his descendants, who will each receive around £24m.

Under the terms of the family trusts' deeds, members were entitled to receive 72m Unilever shares in 2038.

As part of the buy-out agreement, Unilever has agreed to pay the equivalent of over £10 a share to buy the rights.

Jean-Marc Huët, the company's chief financial officer, said: "I am very pleased that we have concluded this agreement with the trusts.

"It is good for all our shareholders. It is another step in the simplification of Unilever's capital structure, making Unilever easier to understand, and eliminating ahead of time the burden of a significant dilution of shareholders’ interests."

Bolton-born businessman William Lever turned 56 acres of land into a world-famous soap factory, as well as housing for his employees and landscaped gardens.

In 1884 Lever, the grocer's son decided to specialise in selling individually wrapped bars of household soap and came up with the brand name "Sunlight".

Successful sales meant production outgrew its first location in Warrington, so Lever chose what is now called Port Sunlight as the location of his new factory, due to its proximity to road, rail and water transport.

Today, around 2,000 Unilever employees are based in the village, which is still home to a home care factory, a global research and development facility and business support teams.

The Lever family seat was at Thornton Manor, until the last Lord Leverhulme died in 2000.