Sir David Barclay, Telegraph proprietor who together with his twin Frederick constructed an enormous enterprise empire – obituary


Sir David Barclay, who has died unexpectedly after a brief sickness aged 86, created together with his twin Sir Frederick a enterprise empire which started with inns and grew to incorporate delivery, retailing and, since 2004, the proprietorship of the Telegraph Media Group.

Similar in look, way of life and sometimes even in gown, the Barclay brothers operated as one all through their lively enterprise profession, whereas doing their utmost to keep away from private publicity and discourage media scrutiny.

“Privateness is a worthwhile commodity,” stated Sir David – apparently the extra outgoing of the 2 – in one in all his only a few public utterances. “There is no such thing as a incentive for us to speak about our enterprise affairs.”

A few years later, replying by e-mail to a request for an interview, he added: “It doesn’t attraction to us to boast to others of how intelligent we now have been or how profitable we’re.”

If there was some other distinction between the twins, in accordance with one colleague, it was that “David was extra attuned to taking a threat, and Frederick was typically prepared to take a look however would by no means guess the farm”.

The mix labored nicely over 5 a long time of funding and stewardship during which – although they generally attracted controversy – they hardly ever stumbled within the accumulation of a considerable fortune.

The brothers ventured into media possession in 1992 after they purchased The European, a weekly newspaper launched two years earlier by Robert Maxwell; it closed in 1998. In 1995 they purchased The Scotsman, which noticed seven modifications of editor throughout their possession and was bought to Johnston Press in 2005.

Having employed the previous Sunday Instances editor Andrew Neil to mastermind their media pursuits, they went on in 1997 to purchase Sunday Enterprise; relaunched as a competitor to the weekend Monetary Instances underneath the editorship of Jeff Randall, it loved preliminary success however by no means approached breaking even and (by then in journal format) closed in 2008.

After these ventures within the publishing enviornment, the brothers had nurtured for the reason that Eighties an ambition to personal the Telegraph group.

In Might 2003, when it was evident that the then proprietor Lord Black of Crossharbour was at odds with different shareholders in his grasp firm, Hollinger Worldwide, Sir David despatched a fax from Monte Carlo which stated merely: “I want to register our curiosity must you ponder any critical change in your UK pursuits”; to which Black replied: “Situations are fairly manageable. No property are on the market.”

By November of that 12 months, nevertheless, Black’s place was extra susceptible, and secret negotiations with Sir David started. A deal was struck during which they’d pay Black $326 million through his personal Canadian firm – chopping throughout the Hollinger board’s separate, extra public makes an attempt to discover a purchaser for the Hollinger group’s property, which additionally included the Chicago Solar-Instances, the Jerusalem Submit, The Telegraph newspapers and the Spectator journal.

The personal take care of Black was overruled by a Delaware decide, and the Barclays selected as an alternative to enter an public sale run by Lazard’s in London in opposition to, amongst others, the proprietor of the Day by day Mail. They prevailed in June 2004 with a bid of £665 million.

In later years, the brothers more and more delegated the industrial management of Telegraph Media Group and different selections to do with the administration of their empire to Sir David’s sons Aidan and Howard.

Sir David had an astute grasp of the political panorama and one good friend recalled that he was “in a position to learn the financial ‘tea-leaves’ like few individuals of his technology”. However as newspaper proprietors, it had all the time been the brothers’ coverage to intervene barely in any respect in editorial selections – although their editors knew that they supported Margaret Thatcher’s enthusiasm for small authorities, free markets, decrease taxes, wealth creation and offering the technique of social mobility to everybody.

He was near the previous prime minister and likewise to her trusted advisers, notably Sir Gordon Reece, Sir David English and Lord (Alistair) McAlpine, who turned nice mates.

His patriotic sensibility – which included scepticism in direction of the excesses of the European Union – expressed itself primarily as an curiosity in individuals’s well-being, and together with this went a dislike of presidency interference within the lives of personal residents. He felt, on the entire, that politicians had let individuals down.

David Rowat Barclay and Frederick Hugh Barclay had been born into a big household in Hammersmith on October 27 1934; David was the older by 10 minutes. Their father, additionally Frederick, was a travelling salesman from Kilmarnock who died when the boys had been 13. David’s early years weren’t straightforward: with two of his brothers he was evacuated a number of occasions throughout the conflict and witnessed at first hand the bombing of Coventry.

However regardless of some disagreeable experiences and the loneliness of being separated from his household, in a quest for monetary independence David and his brothers ventured into enterprise for the primary time when he was 9, incomes a couple of pennies in a scheme taking care of the bicycles of farmers going to market. At one level they had been sorted by an aged Christian schoolteacher who launched him to a lifetime of religion.

The twins left college at 14 and David would all the time say that he had been educated within the “College of Life”. From an early age he was a voracious reader, obsessive about newspapers and gleaning a deep understanding of enterprise, economics and politics.

David went to work first within the accounts division of the Basic Electrical Firm, after which they each had spells as jobbing painters and interior designers; additionally they briefly ran a nook store till it hit monetary difficulties. By 1961 they’d arrange as property brokers in Ledbury Street, Notting Hill, and in a fast-moving market had begun shopping for and buying and selling quite a few properties, finally redeveloping run-down boarding homes as small inns.

Their first main lodge buy was Hyde Park North and Hyde Park West, then the Cadogan in Sloane Road in 1968, adopted by the Londonderry in Park Lane two years later and the Kensington Palace, shut by its namesake, in 1973. They acquired greater than 15 inns inside a decade.

To finance their rising ambitions, they borrowed, and throughout the property crash of late 1973 and early 1974 they had been affected by the banking disaster and had a slender escape, however they managed to outlive and pivot into different sectors. From then on they steadily amassed an in depth portfolio of property, working in personal with the assist of a cadre of loyal bankers who enabled them to barter quick and exhausting with money on the desk.

“They’re very efficient stealth consumers,” noticed one financier. “They arrive out of nowhere and transfer rapidly.”

The Howard Resort on the Thames Embankment was added in 1975, however the deal which took the Barclays into the next league was their takeover in 1983, for £47 million, of Ellerman Strains, a family-owned delivery group combining brewing with assorted different pursuits, which had misplaced its means within the international commerce stoop of the early Eighties. A gathering in Monte Carlo with Girl Ellerman, widow of Sir John Ellerman, the agency’s proprietor, was essential in serving to them to safe the deal.

Having bought the delivery arm to a administration buy-out, the brothers went on to eliminate the Cameron and Tolly Cobbold breweries and pub chains on the peak of the Eighties growth to Brent Walker for £240 million – 5 occasions what they’d paid for the group.

They returned to the delivery enterprise in 1988 with the $670 million acquisition of Gotaas-Larsen line of LNG and VLCC tankers, which they bought for a revenue a decade later.

In 1999 they achieved one other coup, offering backing to their Monaco neighbour, the style tycoon Philip Inexperienced, in taking on and breaking apart the Sears retail group to reap one other wealthy return. And in 2002 they purchased Littlewoods for £750 million from the Moores household.

In 2003 they acquired the GUS residence catalogue enterprise, merging the companies and shutting down the shops however sustaining and creating the net retail enterprise, now known as the Very group; the parcel enterprise was spun out and advanced into Yodel.

In 2011, they secured a controlling stake in Claridge’s, the Connaught and the Berkeley inns. The transaction resulted in a Excessive Courtroom battle for management of what was now known as the Maybourne Resort Group; the twins characteristically declined to offer proof in individual, however the Courtroom of Attraction finally discovered of their favour, and so they determined to promote their curiosity to Qatari buyers.

The Barclays had additionally acquired the Mirabeau Resort in Monte Carlo in 1979. In 1990 David Barclay left the UK to take up residence in Monaco; they stored a superyacht, Girl Beatrice, within the harbour, purchased the native radio station, and had been appointed, in 2010, “ambassadors at giant for financial improvement” by the principality and later officer, then commander of the Ordre de Saint Charles (Monaco).

Regardless of the vary of his enterprise actions, Sir David’s fashion was closest to that of a hotelier, having spent a lot of his early enterprise profession doing enterprise with the well-known “lodge tycoons” of the post-war period, the place contracts had been nonetheless generally written out on napkins.

He cherished the atmosphere of Europe’s grand previous inns and continued to get pleasure from spending time in them: he was well-known to workers and common friends. When the brothers visited London they most popular to function from the Ritz, which they acquired in 1995 for £75 million – and the place, in 2013, they made a collection obtainable to Margaret Thatcher for the final weeks of her life as a gesture of their admiration.

The sale of the Ritz early in 2020, to a brother-in-law of the ruler of Qatar, revealed a well-publicised disagreement between the brothers over the lodge’s sale course of and value, which resulted in courtroom proceedings.

In earlier years their most well-known joint residence had been the rocky outcrop of Brecqhou, off the Channel island of Sark, which they purchased for £2.3 million in 1993 and the place they constructed a fortresslike neo-Gothic mansion, designed by Quinlan Terry, which got here to symbolise their choice for privateness and financial independence.

They invested in a lot of companies on Sark, however within the early days relations with the group and its feudal landlord had their difficulties. The Barclays engaged in varied authorized and constitutional disputes – together with a problem in opposition to a neighborhood wealth tax, and one other in opposition to a legislation of primogeniture. However not too long ago relations had been extra harmonious.

The Barclay brothers had been knighted in 2000 – carrying similar Windsor-knotted purple ties and pocket handkerchiefs for the investiture, and kneeling facet by facet earlier than the Queen within the first double knighthood ceremony of recent occasions.

This was partly in recognition of their assist for medical analysis and kids’s charities via their joint charitable basis. They had been additionally benefactors of London Zoo and of the Passage homeless shelter in Victoria, west London.

In 2010 Sir David was made a papal knight by Pope Benedict XVI. He took his non secular religion significantly and loved quoting the scriptures; over a lifetime he explored a variety of denominations, from being an lively Pentecostal in his youth, to periodically frequenting Anglican church buildings. Latterly he turned nearer to the Catholic Church.

Sir David, who was all the time beneficiant together with his recommendation, and took time to encourage individuals he met, dedicated a lot of the final 20 years to writing, making a document of his philosophy of life for future generations of his household, and dealing on an unpublished memoir.

In 1955, when he was 20 and he or she was 19, David Barclay married Zoe Newton, a much-photographed mannequin well-known for showing within the “Drinka Pinta Milka Day” advertisements. That they had three sons, Aidan, Howard and Duncan. That marriage resulted in divorce within the Eighties; he married, secondly, Reyna Oropeza, with whom, in 1989, he had one other son, Alistair. He had 9 grandchildren.

Sir David Barclay, born October 27 1934, died January 10 2021


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