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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jane Martinson

Frederick Barclay received £800,000 to settle Ritz espionage case, court told

Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick
Sir Frederick Barclay (right) with his twin brother, Sir David. The court heard there had been a fist fight in 2014 between the twins over inheritance. Photograph: Michael Stephens/AFP/Getty Images

Sir Frederick Barclay received £800,000 from his nephews for settling a legal battle over alleged “commercial espionage on a vast scale” that included bugging of thousands of his private conversations at the five-star Ritz hotel, a court was told.

It also emerged in the high court on Tuesday that the feud played out between two sides of the Barclay family, which owns the Telegraph media group as well as Yodel and Shop Direct, cost the businessman and his daughter Amanda £7.5m in legal fees.

In questioning Sir Frederick’s lawyer, Stewart Leech QC, acting for Sir Frederick’s ex-wife, Lady Hiroko, in a contempt case that could see the 87-year-old billionaire go to prison, said: “At the end of litigation that cost Amanda and your client £7.5m, there was to be £800,000. So not a lot of return for 7.5m pounds.”

Marcus Dearle, who is giving evidence in the case on behalf of Sir Frederick because of his age and health, did not respond.

At issue in the hearing is why Sir Frederick has not paid the £100m he was ordered to pay his wife of 34 years in a divorce settlement awarded in March 2021.

Sir Frederick’s lawyers have argued that they have been unable to raise the funds. Mr Leech read out evidence that at the heart of the case were “both” liquidity issues resulting from heavily indebted or “highly leveraged underlying businesses” and the “nephews cutting off funds”.

Despite this, the sons of Sir Frederick’s late twin brother, Sir David Barclay, Aidan, Howard and Alistair, have so far contributed almost £1m to their uncle’s divorce battle after his daughter, who holds a stake worth 25% in the family businesses, stopped funding her father’s defence.

Although not parties to the divorce, the nephews applied to have much of the case to be heard in private, a bid opposed by Guardian News and Media and other members of the press and largely rejected by Sir Jonathan Cohen, citing the seriousness of the contempt proceedings.

On Tuesday, the judge rejected a bid by the nephews to prevent the media from revealing that Sir David is buried on Brecqhou, the Channel island he owned jointly with his brother.

The court also heard that, in 2014, a row over the business and inheritance led to a fist fight between the twins with Sir David then banning Sir Frederick from the island.

Evidence read out by Charles Howard QC, representing Sir Frederick, said that when, in October 2019, his client wrote to his brother on notepaper from the Ritz Hotel asking to come to Brecqhou in order to value it, the reply was curt.

“My answer is a firm no,” Sir David wrote to his twin brother. “First, Brecqhou is mine and my wife’s house. It is a serious invasion of our privacy and as you know we value our privacy.”

He also wrote that although Sir Frederick owned half of the freehold of Brecqhou it was “all but worthless” given the fact the brothers had put a 150-year lease on the island in 2000.

In the letter, read out in court by Howard, Sir David valued his brother’s interest in the island at just £75,000.

Under cross-examination Lady Barclay said this was “typical David” and poured scorn on the valuation. In evidence she pointed out that Sir Frederick’s lifestyle was unchanged and said that Sir David’s widow had homes in Monaco, Gstaad and London as well as Brecqhou.

In a statement made after the truce in the bugging case was called in June 2021, the Barclay family 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. We are grateful to all those who have helped us resolve this issue.”

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