ROBERT HARDMAN: How David Barclay, who has passed away at the age of 86, became one half of the British media mogul twins
He was the ultimate Thatcher success story, even though Sir David Barclay tried his best to prevent anyone from telling: the backstreet workaholic boy who left school at the age of 14 and who, along with his twin brother, is one of the big companies built. empires of his time.
It included great hotels, shipping fleets, breweries, a fortified island retreat – and the Daily Telegraph.
So when Lady Thatcher needed a helping hand in the twilight of her life, Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick were more than willing to help.
Not only did they finance their heroine, but they made sure that she spent her last days in a suite at their finest address, the Ritz Hotel in London, before her death in 2013.
Now, after a short illness, the famously reclusive Sir David himself has passed away at the age of 86. He leaves behind a widow, four sons and nine grandchildren.
Image: Joint owners of the Daily Telegraph Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick after receiving their knighthood from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2000
Sir David Barclay with his then-wife Zoe Newton with their newborn baby Aidan in 1956
He also leaves behind a twin brother from whom he was inseparable for most of his life, until a bizarre and painful breakup towards the end.
The details of that, however, remain opaque, like so much about Sir David, for the simple reason that he preferred it that way.
For years, he refused to provide information to Who’s Who. Even today, his entry – like his twin brother’s – doesn’t include any details about parents, wives (he is said to have two), children, hobbies, or even his date of birth.
It simply lists a series of directorships, along with the honor that the brothers were most proud of.
In 2000, they both went to Buckingham Palace to be knighted by the Queen for services to charity. They had never trumpeted their philanthropy, but it ran into the tens of millions.
The occasion was memorable for two reasons. First, it meant a rare sighting of them together (with identical purple ties).
The Barclays bought a joint home on the rocky spur of Brecqhou, off the Channel Island of Sark. They had bought the island for £ 2.3 million in 1993 and built a fortress as a Neo-Gothic mansion
Second, the queen performed the only double knighthood in living memory. Instead of standing in line, both Barclays were allowed to kneel next to each other to receive the award.
It may have been the culmination of their partnership. A decade later, cracks began to emerge, culminating in last year’s amazing stories in court of overheard conversations and a toxic feud between the younger generations of the Barclay dynasty.
The split followed a decision by Sir David’s sons to sell the Ritz to a Qatari Sheikh. This went against the wishes of Sir Frederick and his daughter, who believed a better deal could be struck than the stated price of about £ 750 million.
The fact that one of Sir David’s sons had overheard many of Sir Frederick’s conversations made matters more toxic.
While I understand that shortly before Sir David’s death, the brothers had some sort of reconciliation, this was an unhappy final chapter in his life.
Still, it wasn’t someone who didn’t know a man at all who filled a library with leather-bound copies of all the legal actions he took in his life. It’s a big library.
The Queen with David Barclay (center) and Frederick Barclay (right) at the opening of The Scotsman Publications Ltd’s new headquarters in Edinburgh
David Rowat Barclay was born in Hammersmith, West London, on October 27, 1934, ten minutes before Frederick.
During the wartime evacuation, the twins showed a talent for business early on by asking farmers to take care of their bikes on market day.
They were 13 when their father, a Scottish-born traveling salesman, died and left behind ten children.
David initially found employment in General Electric’s accounting department before putting his hand on odd jobs and, along with Frederick, a botched corner shop.
In the early 1960s they set up a real estate agency in London’s Notting Hill, then nothing quite like today’s chi-chi banker enclave.
At the same time, David met and married Zoe Newton, a model, with whom he had three boys (divorced in the 1980s, he would have a fourth son by his second wife).
Barclays bought the Telegraph in 2004 which would become a source of disagreement between the brothers as Sir David loved it, while Sir Frederic saw it as a costly vanity project
By the early 1970s, the brothers had a stable of 15 hotels, including one in Park Lane. In fact, their careers started to mirror a marathon game of Monopoly.
During the 1974 crisis, it was almost ruined. Nevertheless, they managed to expand the hotel empire even further.
By the time Mrs. Thatcher was on Downing Street, they were eager to upgrade. Their purchase in 1983 for £ 47 million of Ellerman, a shipping and brewing conglomerate, would lead them to the company’s first division.
The timing was perfect, fueling a new, insatiable appetite for the town as they thrashed the pub side of the business for five times the purchase price.
In the 1990s, they spent much of their time in Monaco, where they owned a yacht, Lady Beatrice, named after their mother.
Along with identical twins Sir Frederick Barclay (right), Sir David (left) launched a business empire that made him one of the richest men in Britain with an estimated shared fortune of £ 7 billion.
There, they supported another expat dynamo on the rise, one Philip Green, as he built his fashion empire. All the while they stuck to that lifelong mantra: no publicity.
At the same time, they made two decisions that set them apart from the usual Rich List food.
They bought a 160-acre canal island, Brecqhou, and then built a fairytale fortress worthy of a James Bond movie in its weathered rock.
They also laid the foundation for a new media empire. That started modestly enough in 1992 with the purchase of the European newspaper, followed by The Scotsman and Sunday Business.
However, they would advance to Fleet Street’s top table in 2004, beating a lot of competition to acquire the Telegraph group for a hefty £ 665 million.
It would become a source of disagreement between the brothers. While Sir David always loved the newspaper side of the business, Sir Frederick considered it a costly vanity project. He was more interested in hotels.
While they would end up with a portfolio stretching from the Mirabeau in Monaco (where both were honorary ambassadors) to that of Claridge, there was one unparalleled crown jewel in their collection: the Ritz.
Bought in 1995 for £ 75 million, it was the Ritz where they loved to entertain friends like Lady Thatcher. And it was the Ritz that eventually drove them apart.
“In all my dealings with him, I have never found Sir David to be anything but fair and decent,” said former editor and TV host Andrew Neil, who worked with the brothers for 25 years.
‘To be honest, I never thought anything could get between them. So it’s good to know they had some reconciliation. ‘
So did they finally fix things? We will probably never know. Indeed, from the afterlife you can almost hear a heavenly: ‘No comment’.