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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jane Martinson

Sir Frederick Barclay relying on nephews to fund divorce battle, court hears

Sir Frederick Barclay, seen here in October 2019 leaving the high court after a preliminary hearing of his divorce case
Sir Frederick Barclay, seen here in October 2019 leaving the high court after a preliminary hearing of his divorce case, attended Thursday’s hearing via video link. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Sir Frederick Barclay, who along with his twin brother was once one of the UK’s richest men, is relying on his nephews to fund his divorce battle after being evicted from his luxury flat, a court has heard.

A high court hearing on Thursday heard that Barclay, 87, has not paid any of the £100m divorce order made almost a year ago and has halved the monthly allowance to his wife of 34 years, Lady Hiroko Barclay.

The owner of the Telegraph media group as well as a number of other businesses now faces the prospect of a prison sentence, or a hefty fine, if found guilty of contempt of court for failing to pay a lump sum of £50m due last August. The full sum of £100m is due this May, making the award one of the UK’s biggest court cases.

His 79-year-old wife also faces legal debts of £500,000 after Barclay defaulted on paying her legal fees, the court was told.

Barclay’s lawyer, Charles Howard QC, told the court that Barclay’s daughter Amanda was no longer paying her father’s legal costs, which were now being funded by his nephews by way of a loan.

Until last summer, Barclay was in a separate legal dispute with his twin brother’s sons, Aidan, Howard and Alistair, over claims that they bugged his private conversations with his daughter while trying to sell the Ritz hotel, which they sold last year.

The family members settled after the sudden death of Sir Frederick’s twin brother, Sir David Barclay, in January 2021, but the court case is estimated to have cost millions of pounds.

After a court hearing which was largely in person, with only Barclay attending via video link, Mr Justice Jonathan Cohen adjourned the case to obtain further evidence as to Sir Frederick’s mental capacity to conduct proceedings.

A monthly allowance to Lady Barclay has been halved from £60,000 a month without warning, the court heard.

Lady Barclay, who lived with Sir Frederick from the 1970s to the point at which she filed her divorce in 2019, appeared in court alongside her lawyer, Lady Shackleton.

In May last year, Cohen was highly critical of Barclay’s behaviour when he sold his yacht for an estimated £125m but failed to use the proceeds to pay his wife, calling it “reprehensible”.

He also said: “[Barclay] is a public figure who should have been aware of the potential consequences of disobedience of court orders and his behaviour in the proceedings should not be allowed to pass completely under the radar.”

A joint approach by the Guardian, Press Association and Bloomberg News resulted in some of the reporting restrictions in the hearing being lifted.

A spokesperson for Barclay and his nephews declined to comment.

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