Sir David Rowat Barclay and Sir Frederick Hugh Barclay (both born 27
October 1934), commonly referred to as the "Barclay Brothers" or
"Barclay Twins", are British businessmen. The identical twin brothers
have very substantial business interests primarily in media, retail
and property. The
Sunday Times Rich List of 2017 estimated their
wealth at £7.2 billion. They have earned a reputation for avoiding
publicity, and are often described as reclusive.
Sir David's son, Aidan, manages their UK businesses. Their businesses
have been accused of tax avoidance, by placing assets under ownership
of companies registered abroad and controlled through trusts. Their
Press Holdings company owns Apollo and
The Spectator magazine, and
through a wholly owned subsidiary (Press Acquisitions Limited) they
also own Telegraph Group Limited, parent company of The Daily
Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. 
In 1993 the brothers bought the lease of the island of Brecqhou, off
the coast of Sark, one of the smallest of the British Channel Islands.
2 Business interests
2.1.1 Ellerman Lines
2.2.4 Woolworths and Ladybird brands
2.3.1 The European
2.3.2 The Scotsman
2.3.3 Sunday Business
2.3.4 The Telegraph Media Group
Tax exile accusation
5 External links
The Barclay brothers were born within ten minutes of each other in
County of London
County of London to Scottish parents Beatrice Cecilia
(née Taylor; died 1989) and her husband, Frederick Hugh Barclay, a
travelling salesman. The couple had eight other children.
Frederick, Sr. died when the brothers were twelve years old, and they
left school four years later in 1950 to work in the accounts
department at the General Electric Company before setting up as
painters and decorators.
In 1955 David married Zoe Newton, a grammar school girl who trained as
a ballet dancer, at St John the Baptist Church, Holland Road,
Kensington. Despite standing only 4'11" (1.5 metres), Zoe Barclay
pursued a modelling career and became the most photographed and highly
paid model of her time, appearing on the front of popular magazines
such as Picturegoer. She appeared on television and in the Dairy
Council advertisements as the “drinka pinta milka day“ girl.
By the end of the 1950s, the brothers were running Candy Corner, a
tobacconists and confectioners on the edge of Kensington. However, in
November 1960 the business folded when Frederick and Douglas
[clarification needed] were made bankrupt at the High Court after
their landlord seized the shop because they were in breach of the
terms of the lease. A notice in the
London Gazette at that time
announced the bankruptcies, listing a former business interest of
Frederick, then aged 26, and Douglas, two years his junior, as a
builders and decorators called Barclay Brothers based at the Barclay
Meanwhile, David was registered as a director of Hillgate Estate
Agents in 1962, with his wife Zoe as a co-director (she had given up
her modelling career to concentrate on her young sons, Aidan, Howard
and Duncan). By 1968, however, Frederick was running the family
businesses, replacing Zoe on the Hillgate board. He had obtained the
discharge of his bankruptcy after David stepped in and paid the
creditors. During this time they redeveloped old boarding houses in
London, and made them into hotels.
Between 1968 and 1974, the twins received increasingly large loans
from the Crown Agents, a government agency designed to help the
colonies and developing countries do business in Britain. In 1970 they
bought Gestplan Hotels — which operated the exclusive Londonderry
House Hotel in Park Lane — from a group of Lebanese bankers. The
property crash in late 1973 brought an end to the Crown Agents, and
their debts were sold on at a fraction of the original price. In the
mid-1970s Frederick met and married Hiroko Asada, née Kuzusaka, a
familiar figure among Japanese society in London; she had a son from
her previous marriage, Ko Asada Barclay who is married to Sara
From the late 1960s onwards the Barclay brothers continued to build up
stakes in a variety of businesses, including breweries and casinos. In
1975, they bought the Howard Hotel, overlooking the Thames at Temple
Place. In 1983 they bought Ellerman, the brewing and shipping group
for £45m. They later sold its brewing division for £240m. They used
the proceeds to buy the Ritz Hotel in London's
Piccadilly in 1995.
They spent £370 million on Gotaas-Larsen, a Bermuda-based shipping
company, and £200 million on the Automotive Financial Group, a motor
retail chain in 1994. The brothers are involved in philanthropy and
were knighted in 2000 for their support to medical research, to which
they have donated an estimated forty million pounds between 1987 and
In 2004, they were listed in 42nd place with an estimate of £750m on
the Sunday Times Rich List, and in 2006, they were ranked 24th with a
value of £1,800m. In 2012, they topped the Media Rich List with
an estimate of £2.25 billion.
In 1983, the brothers purchased Ellerman, the brewing and shipping
group for £45m. They later sold its brewing division (for £240m),
and in late 1985 its shipping business (to its management). The
Ellerman deal helped Barclays develop the strategy of buying
companies, breaking them up and profiting from the real estate.
The technique of approaching an insider in order to obtain an
advantage also set a precedent for later deals: the Barclays
approached the Ellerman non-executive chairman, David Scott, at a
secret meeting in Monte Carlo. Scott recalled in his memoirs that
David Barclay requested an exclusive option to buy the firm – and to
keep it secret from all but two directors – in return for a promise
that Scott would stay on as non-executive chairman. However moments
after signing the sale document, Scott was handed a letter (by the
Barclays' lawyer) demanding his immediate resignation on grounds that
he had been indiscreet about the offer.
In 2002, the brothers purchased the
Liverpool based retail company
Littlewoods from its founders the Moores family for £750m. The deal
was bankrolled by HBOS, which also took a five percent equity stake in
the brothers bidding vehicle, LW Investments. The brothers merged the
company with their earlier purchase
Shop Direct to form Littlewoods
Shop Direct Home Shopping Limited, which operates a majority share of
the United Kingdom's home shopping market. They also closed and sold
Littlewoods department store chain, with the largest parcel of
120 properties being purchased by
Associated British Foods
Associated British Foods for leasing
mainly to its subsidiary Primark, while other stores were leased
to Marks & Spencer, New Look and British Home Stores.
Two years after the brothers' acquisition of
Littlewoods Ltd., HM
Revenue & Customs repaid the company VAT that it had charged in
breach of EU law. Since October 2004, more than £200 million in
overpaid VAT and £268 million in simple interest was repaid to the
Littlewoods argued that the company was owed a
compounded interest rate and subsequently sued the HMRC for £1bn.
Delivery company Yodel, a subsidiary of
Shop Direct Ltd., has received
criticism for its poor service in the past, but has improved over
recent years. Yodel (which operates via Home Delivery Network
Ltd.) suffered a £130 million loss in 2011.
In October 2006, the Barclays sold handbag.com for £22 million. This
was almost all profit: they acquired the website after it was set up
as a joint venture between Hollinger International and the Boots Group
in 1999. The Handbag group was a collection of four websites designed
for female users: the high fashion getlippy.com, the fashion and home
life-focused allaboutyou.com, a "specialist pregnancy site"
gomamatoday.com and handbag.com.
Woolworths and Ladybird brands
Main article: woolworths.co.uk
On 2 February 2009 it was announced that the brothers' Shop Direct
Group had purchased the Woolworths and Ladybird brand names for an
undisclosed amount, from Deloitte, the administrators of the failed
In 1992, they entered the newspaper publishing industry, buying The
European newspaper, formerly part of Robert Maxwell's holdings. The
weekly paper became a high-end business tabloid, but was closed in
In 1995 they bought
The Scotsman newspaper, and in 1996 appointed
former Sunday Times editor
Andrew Neil to oversee their publishing
interests. On 19 December 2005, the Barclays sold The Scotsman
Publications Ltd, itself then part of
Press Holdings Group, for £160
million to Johnston Press. The Barclays had owned these publications
for a decade, and said they intended to use the capital raised on
their other interests. During their ownership of
The Scotsman the
newspaper went through seven editors in nine years.
In 1998 they relaunched
Sunday Business with editor Jeff
The Telegraph Media Group
In July 2004, they bought The Telegraph Group (now Telegraph Media
Group), which includes The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, and
The Spectator after months of intense bidding and lawsuits. The
Telegraph Group was owned by
Hollinger Inc. of Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, the newspaper group controlled by the Canadian-born British
businessman Conrad Black. As part of the February 2004 judgment, a
Delaware judge, Leo Strine, accused the Barclay brothers of being
"less than fully candid", adding they had "remained silent while Lord
Black misled the
Hollinger Inc. International board", remarks that
incurred the brothers' wrath, with Sir David branding the criticisms
The brothers' period as newspaper proprietors has been more tumultuous
than their property interests. At the Telegraph Group, Murdoch
MacLennan made over 100 journalists redundant in 2006, prompting the
National Union of Journalists
National Union of Journalists to consider strike action. The Sunday
Dominic Lawson was sacked and replaced by Sarah Sands
in June 2005, but she lasted just nine months. Patience Wheatcroft
The Times was appointed editor in March 2006. She was replaced by
Ian McGregor one year later. In February 2015, Peter
Oborne, the Chief Political Correspondent resigned from the newspaper
in protest at its editorial direction.
Tax exile accusation
The Guardian has stated that the brothers are tax exiles, and although
they reside, at least some of the time, in Monaco (giving Avenue de
Grande Bretagne, Monte Carlo as their address) they operate their
businesses from an office in the United Kingdom. When asked if
he was a tax exile, Sir Frederick stated that he lived abroad for
health reasons. The corporate tax arrangements of the Ritz Hotel,
which was purchased and refurbished by the brothers in 1995, was the
subject of a December 2012 investigation by BBC's Panorama current
affairs television programme. The hotel has paid no
corporation tax in the UK by legally claiming reliefs for 17 years.
The Barclay Brothers' castle, Brecqhou
In 1993, the Barclay brothers bought the tenement of the island of
Brecqhou, a small sister island of Sark, one of the Channel Islands.
Their mock-Gothic castle on Brecqhou, designed by Quinlan Terry,
features 3-foot (0.91 m) granite walls, battlements, two swimming
pools and a helicopter pad. Since their purchase of the tenement of
Brecqhou, the Barclays have been in several legal disputes with the
Sark over such issues as the Barclays' violation of
Sark's law banning motor cars. They have also expressed a desire to
Brecqhou politically independent from
Sark – building on the
research of William Toplis, the painter, and others, who argued that
Brecqhou was not a part of the fief of Sark.
In the mid-1990s, the brothers petitioned the European Court of Human
Rights in Strasbourg, France, challenging Sark's inheritance law,
which mandated their island be left to Sir David's oldest son. The
brothers wanted to will their estate equally to their four
children. Sark's legislature decided to amend the inheritance law,
allowing residents to leave property to any one of their children. In
2002, the brothers claimed their property tax was too high,
particularly since they maintained Brecqhou's paths and dock. Fearing
Sark officials cut the Barclays' tax rate.
In 2008 (partially due to legal activity by the Barclay brothers),
Sark dismantled its 443-year-old feudal system of government on the
premise that this was necessary to comply with the European Convention
on Human Rights. On 16 January 2008 and 21 February 2008, the Chief
Pleas approved a law which introduced a 30-member chamber, with 28
members elected in Island-wide elections, one hereditary member and
one member appointed for life. On 9 April 2008, the Privy Council
Sark law reforms, and the first elections under the new
law were held in December 2008.
Sark general election, 2008
On 11 December 2008, the Barclay brothers were in the news for pulling
out their investments (which included hotels) from the island of Sark,
causing 170 staff to be made redundant, after local voters did not
support candidates championed by the Barclay brothers. The brothers
had previously warned that if the voters chose to bring back the
Sark leaders that are still aligned with the feudal
lord then they would pull out of Sark.
After the 2008 election, the brothers claimed that the presence of two
unelected figures on Sark's government – the seigneur and the
seneschal, the local judge - was unjustifiable. They took their fight
to the supreme court, arguing that the two roles break human rights
laws that protect the rights of citizens to elect lawmakers. Their
challenge was dismissed, but the Barclays said they would continue to
fight, taking their case to the
European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights in
On 28 March 2012,
BBC Radio 4 dedicated part of its Today programme to
analysis of the Barclay brothers' role in Sark. It reported that
the islanders were protesting against bullying and intimidation by
representatives of the Barclays after a story in their local paper had
prompted the only doctor to leave the island. The doctor had used a
boat rather than the Barclays' helicopter to transport a patient who
was having a seizure to hospital on Guernsey, which was reported in
the Barclays' paper as negligent. Despite support from the patient's
family and the local BMA, the doctor left
Sark after the story,
leaving the island without a doctor.
^ "Piers Morgan On Monte Carlo". Youtube.com. 3 April 2011. Retrieved
15 January 2014.
^ a b Robinson, James (14 December 2008). "The raiders of the lost
Sark". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
^ "The UK's richest 1,000". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 7 August
^ The Telegraph Press office
^ Barclay Brothers' profile, timesonline.co.uk
^ a b c "Secret Behind Barclay's Passion", timesonline.co.uk
^ "Barclay brothers come out of purdah with biography", The Sunday
Times, 3 August 2003.
Picturegoer – 1957". Picturegoer.net. Archived from the original
on 13 April 2001. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
^ "Milk Bottle Museum", The Birmingham Post (archived at
^ "The Time – Bankrupt Brother". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 15
^ "Barclay twins knighted in 'double dubbing'", The Daily Telegraph, 1
The Times Rich List, 2006''". Timesonline.co.uk. 3 November 2013.
Retrieved 15 January 2014.
^ "Barclay brothers top
Sunday Times Rich List in publishing and
advertising", The Guardian
^ "Britain's Billionaire Barclay Twins Use Stealth to Amass Empire".
Mathaba.net. Archived from the original on 20 June 2015. Retrieved 15
^ "Dealmaking Barclays accustomed to getting their way",
articles.chicagotribune.com, 1 February 2004.
Primark takes over Littlewood stores", Manchester Evening News
^ "Structure of Industry" by Robert Paisley Archived 15 December 2008
at the Wayback Machine., dialspace.dial.pipex.com
^ International Tax Review, 19 July 2012
Littlewoods court case could cost taxman billions", AccountancyAge,
18 July 2012.
^ Bachelor, Lisa (24 August 2012). "Amazon deluged with complaints
over Yodel's poor delivery service". The Guardian. London. Retrieved
15 January 2014.
^ bbc.co.uk, 22 March 2012
^ bizzy, Home Delivery Network Limited profile
^ Journalism.co.uk "NatMags buys Handbag.com", journalism.co.uk
^ "Administrators announce sale of Woolworths brand". Deloitte. 2
February 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
^ a b Tryhorn, Chris (23 June 2004). "Who are the Barclay brothers?".
^ "Mr Justice David Richards, paragraph 35". Bailii.org. Retrieved 15
^ "Parties dilly-dally over donations law". The Times. London. 20
September 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2012. Sir David and I left the
UK over 23 years ago for health reasons and not for tax reasons in any
shape or form.
^ "Barclay twins' Ritz hotel pays no corporation tax".
BBC News. 17
December 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
^ "The Tax Haven Twins Finance Documentary". youtube.com. Retrieved 8
^ a b c "Wall Street Journal – October 2005". Mathaba.net. Archived
from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 15 January
^ Morris, Steven (11 December 2008). "
Sark voters snub Barclays
brothers in historic elections". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May
^ "Barclay Brothers lose appeal", guardian.co.uk, 1 December 2009.
Sark Islanders fear takeover".
BBC News. 28 March 2012. Retrieved
28 March 2012.
Sark Spring", The New Yorker, October 29, 2012. Accessed 16 April
BBC Radio 4, Today:
Sark Islanders fear takeover – 28 March 2012
BBC: Telegraph empire in tycoons' grip – 18 January 2004
BBC: Profile: the Barclay brothers – 11 December 2008
The Scotsman: Barclay brothers land Telegraph group as £677m deal is
finally done – 30 July 2004
The Guardian: Barclays Take Over at Telegraph – 30 July 2004 –
includes links to related stories
Lady Beatrice Photo of the Barclay brothers' yacht in Monaco
Shop Direct Group
EveryDay Financial Solutions Limited
Home Delivery Network Limited (HDNL)
Optimum Contact Solutions Limited
Shop Direct Home Shopping Limited
Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick Barclay (Owners)
Mark Newton-Jones (Chief Executive)
Shop Direct Group
Telegraph Media Group
The Daily Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph
The Scotsman Publications
Edinburgh Evening News
Herald & Post
Scotland on Sunday
David and Frederick Barclay