Who are the Barclay Brothers?

The Barclay brothers' castle in Brecqhou

The Barclay Brothers' castle on the island they own, Sark

Precious little is known of Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, despite being renowned for seizing business opportunities in media, retail and property.

Dan Drage digs deep to find 10 signals of their true identity.

1. Brecqhou

In 1993, the Barclay brothers purchased the island of Brecqhou, situated just west of Sark in the Channel Islands. Upon completion of the deal, the Barclays immediately set about commissioning the design and build of a £60m gothic-style mansion, an imposing walled building that now dominates the island’s north face.

However, the brothers’ quest for idyllic seclusion has met with a number of obstacles – primarily in the shape of the government of Sark. The Barclays drive cars on the island and frequently land their helicopter within the mansion’s grounds despite both activities being deemed illegal by Sark’s age-old feudal laws.

Demonstrating a rebellious streak bordering on churlishness, but additionally attracting the headlines they tried so hard to avoid, the Barclays shut down their entire Sark operation in 2008, invoking a game of political poker designed to pressure the government of Sark into overturning the preventative feudal laws. One hundred jobs were lost on Sark, which represents around a sixth of the population. “Sark doesn't appear to want or appreciate the Barclays' investment and so it doesn't have it," advocate Gordon Dawes, who represents the Barclays, told BBC News.

Their acquisition of Littlewoods in 2002 courted controversy though when the penny-pinching duo scrapped the firm’s tradition of donating 1% of its annual profits to a range of charities

Unfortunately for the Barclays, in a gesture of defiance not seen since Passport to Pimlico, Sark’s electorate voted unanimously against the twins, which was compounded by the five Supreme Court judges who also dismissed their case. The helicopter has not been sighted since.

2. Knighthoods

The Barclay brothers made a rare public appearance to receive dual knighthoods from the Queen in 2000 for their services to charitable causes. Their charitable foundation is thought to have donated many millions to worthy causes over the past 15 years.

Their acquisition of Littlewoods in 2002 courted controversy though when the penny-pinching duo scrapped the firm’s tradition of donating 1% of its annual profits to a range of charities, although any astute businessperson would interpret this action as the work of two individuals determined to overturn the fortunes of an ailing high street mainstay.

3. The Ritz

Although Sir David and Sir Frederick are famed most for their ownership of The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman, the Ritz Hotel is arguably the polished diamond in their portfolio.

The Ritz, which overlooks Green Park at 150 Piccadilly, was purchased by the Barclays in 1995 for £80m. The hotel’s original blueprint, drawn up by Frenchman Charles Mewés and the London-born architect Arthur Davis in 1905, depicted a building based on a grand Loire Valley chateau, replete with dormer windows, tall chimneys and Louis XVI themed interiors.

However, on taking ownership of the Ritz, the Barclays discovered opulence had given way to decay. Vowing to restore the ailing institution to its former splendour, the twin brothers spent £40m on an eight-year refit project.

The hotel’s famous Palm Court, where one takes high tea, has been fully rebuilt, along with the famous Rivoli Bar. Designed in art-deco style by Tessa Kennedy, the bar is quasi-representative of the bar on the Orient Express.

4. Aiden Barclay

Despite the twins’ impressive combined clout, Aiden Barclay, son of Sir David, is arguably the family’s modern lynchpin. As overseer of The Telegraph’s MP’s expenses scoop, not to mention the installer of some much needed stability on the Telegraph Media Group’s editorial hierarchy, Aiden is quietly achieving the consistency his reclusive father and uncle would no doubt be proud of.

In the five years since the Barclay Brothers acquired the Telegraph Media Group, the editor’s desk has been something of a revolving door, with seven different editors being employed across the two flagship titles. To a certain degree, Aiden Barclay seems to have stemmed the flow while also managing to drag The Telegraph kicking and screaming into the digital age.

True to form though, Aiden also harbours an aversion to the spotlight, declining as he did four invitations to appear before a House of Lords communications committee investigating media ownership. Its chairman, Lord Fowler, said his non-appearance was "objectionable" – a further example of how the Barclay family trait for aloofness can rub people up the wrong way.

5. Twins

Sir David and Sir Frederick are identical twins, born 10 minutes apart, and a US/UK twins study carried out by St Thomas’ Hospital, Imperial College and the US Case Western Reserve University helped to determine a genetic underpinning to entrepreneurial success.

The researchers examined self-employment in 609 pairs of identical twins and 657 pairs of same-sex non-identical twins in the UK. Identical twins share all their genes while non-identical twins share, on average, about half. The rate of entrepreneurship among twins was the same as across the general population, but researchers looked at whether one twin being an entrepreneur increased the chance of their co-twin becoming an entrepreneur.

The similarity rate within the identical twins group was greater than for the non-identical twin group, which suggests that genetic information is vital driver of entrepreneurial tendencies. The other factors that played a significant role were random life events, such as being made redundant, winning a large sum of money or a chance meeting.


12 comments about this article

comment by John
I have known Sark since the late 40's when my father helped install the electricity system. Things change, time rolls on, (I suspect there were complaints about the electricity poles) it can be done gently but the majority must agree. We come back from time to time for holidays and see a little change everytime, some good some bad, that's life. I just hope Sark never loses that special magic.
comment by Lord Sauterne
I have never met the Barclay twins, they seem an especially odious pair with deep seated control and litigation issues. I find it obnoxious that people who earn from the UK and accept British honours, decide not to pay tax. They may be rich but no class at all. Well done the BBC !
comment by Wilfred Lowensteyn
After i have read about this snooty Barclays twin i fear for the Sark i visited many times in my childhood and adore since 1969. In the way these brothers appear, they seem to lack any sense of honor and therfore have no respect at all for culture, tradition and other human values. I have pity for Sark, saddled up with this ill-bred twin and for humanity with this freak of nature as another example of today's rancidness. We lose the pure nature and beautiful cultural heritage over the last few decades to pollutive vermin that waste all the sacred spots on earth that remained.
comment by richard portelli
Shame on all these people who purely out of jealousy have such hatred for these brothers just bec. They r wealthy. It's come to my knowledge how enterprising and charitable they have been towards humanity and they have made.proper use of the wealth whicb they have rightfully achieved. So why all this hatred. Shame on u all.
comment by Gerald
I whole heartedly support Becky in her views about the Barclay Brothers. They are swine among pearls. For many more views on these poisonous people see Save our Sark on Facebook and visit <a href="http://ebenezerlepage.blogspot.co.uk/" rel="nofollow">http://ebenezerlepage.blogspot.co.uk/</a>
comment by Gerald
I whole heartedly support Becky in her views about the Barclay Brothers. They are swine among pearls. For many more views on these poisonous people see Save our Sark on Facebook and visit <a href="http://ebenezerlepage.blogspot.co.uk/" rel="nofollow">http://ebenezerlepage.blogspot.co.uk/</a>
comment by fred shires
I worked for Littlewoods for 20 years.When the Moores family owned it you where looked after. When the Barclay bros took over they do not look after the staff. It is all about money.
comment by Sarkster
I agree with becky - they want the law to Be there own and wilh there billions they have been allowed to make there own law. Leave sark alone and stop posting that properganda you call a newsletter to everyone
comment by mick
well good luck too them, seems they have bought money and work too the islands, seems to be a lot of green eyed monsters out there
comment by robinson crueso
dont blame a pair of greedy blokes for seeing a greedy set of people on the island for more gain in money, you should have stopped them landing in the first place. As for the jersey girl, what did you want from the island? a new house, a car, a nice boat, these things come with a JOB if you can find one make one. the islands better of without dreamers and free loaders
comment by Dawn Whittle
I will begin Becky with their PROFILE , have you read it ? how and where they began ? Be careful of words like p/pinchers, ruin , gothic and the likes , These Twins made it ok ? how, why and with whose help ? READ their PROFILE. Do not condemm people who let these Islands use their Helicoptor to help , they do not need to but they do , continue to condemm them and you as Islander's could lose out ? I lived in Jersey for Seventeen Year's and what did I get ? NOTHING, NOTHING , so do not Question Help ? Embrace all your pathetic Island can give you ? and be grateful . An ex Islander .
comment by Becky
I hate these men, they are nothing more than penny-pinchers, they have ruined Sark and shoulf of never have been allowed that build such a gothic castle, as a Channel Island resident myself I have begun to hate these two men and hope when they die someone knocks that stupid castle down, they are so rude they do not deserve anything, its also so upsetting how Guernsey laws have been changed for them after offering big amounts of money - what a huge shame.

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