Barclay family settle dispute over bugging at Ritz

Sir Frederick Barclay has reached a settlement with his nephews, the owners of the Daily Telegraph, and has withdrawn a High Court suit against them for the bugging of his conversations at London’s Ritz hotel.

The detente comes after a protracted family battle over the business empire that Barclay built with his late twin brother David, which at its height spanned prestigious hotels, shipping businesses, newspapers and the online retailer Shop Direct.

Although the details of any reconciliation agreement are not disclosed, the family rapprochement has coincided with Frederick Barclay needing to pay a £100m divorce settlement to his former wife Hiroko. A judge ordered him to pay half of it within the next two months.

In a joint statement to the Financial Times, the Barclays said “we are pleased that as a family we can put this difficult period behind us and now look forward to our future together”. 

“In these troubled times, unity within families is more important than ever,” the family added. “We are grateful to all those who have helped us resolve this issue.”

Frederick Barclay and his daughter Amanda last year sued a group of David’s direct relatives and one aide, alleging breach of confidence, misuse of private information and breach of data protection rights. 

The legal action came after Barclay discovered footage showing his nephew Alistair planting a listening device disguised as a plug adaptor in the conservatory he frequently used in the then family-owned Ritz hotel. 

Barclay’s lawyers claimed the 1,000 private conversations recorded represented “commercial espionage on a vast scale”. The defendants, who included David’s sons Alistair, Aidan and Howard Barclay, admitted last year that recordings were made and discussed between them. They said their actions were driven by “serious concerns about aspects of Sir Frederick’s conduct”. 

The defendants offered to pay damages in June last year but neither side has revealed any details of those negotiations or the terms of any subsequent financial settlement. The Barclay family assets are held in a trust, which is in effect controlled by the children of David, who died in January. 

Frederick Barclay, who is no longer a beneficiary of the trust, was ordered by a High Court judge last month to pay the first £50m of his divorce settlement by August.

Mr Justice Jonathan Cohen criticised Barclay’s conduct relating to a luxury yacht after the High Court made orders to control the boat’s sale and use of the proceeds. Barclay had “completely ignored those orders, sold the yacht, and applied the equity for his own use. I regarded that behaviour as reprehensible,” Cohen ruled.

The family dispute raised speculation over the future of the Barclay news titles, which include the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator magazine. But Aidan and Howard Barclay, who run the family holding group, have told colleagues they have no intention to sell.

During last year’s hearings, Desmond Browne QC, who represented Frederick and Amanda Barclay, told the court that “cousin, sadly, has been pitched against cousin” over the trust and the sale of assets such as the Ritz. “We all remember Tolstoy saying ‘each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’,” he said.


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