Barclay family feud escalates as brothers break silence

22 May 2020, 13:14 | Updated: 23 May 2020, 07:14

The nephews of billionaire businessman Sir Frederick Barclay have escalated a bitter family feud by threatening to sue him for damaging the family business and making up lucrative offers for the Ritz hotel.

Siblings Aidan and Howard are sons of Sir Frederick's brother, Sir David, and control the Ellerman holding company that takes in businesses include the Telegraph Media Group, delivery company Yodel and online retailer the Very Group.

They and their other brother, Alistair, are being sued by Sir Frederick and his daughter, Amanda, over secretly filmed video that allegedly shows Alistair handling a bugging device at the Ritz in January.

High Court documents show they are accused of a "deliberate and premeditated invasion of his privacy".

But in their first public statement since the High Court battle erupted, Aidan and Howard dismiss claims that anyone was offering as much as £1.3bn for the London hotel - which sold this year for a reported £700m to a Qatari firm.

They said they felt it was necessary to set the record straight "due to the consistent, misleading and damaging briefing to the media against us and our family businesses by Sir Frederick".

"Sir Frederick is 85 years old and has not been directly involved in the running of our family businesses for almost 30 years," said a statement issued by Ellermans.

"Despite this, he has for some time been conducting uninformed conversations with a range of third parties about sensitive commercial matters... These activities were clearly inappropriate and had the potential to be disruptive and damaging to the family's business interests."

It disputed Sir Frederick's claim that higher offers had been made, saying he had been invited to introduce serious bidders to the process.

"It is simply untrue that any bidder made any formal offer for The Ritz of anything close to £1.3bn," it said.

"Had there been such an offer, we would have been delighted to accept it."

The statement added: "In the legal proceedings currently underway in the High Court, Sir Frederick has taken the opportunity to generate as much self-serving and colourful publicity as possible."

Suggesting they may resort to further legal action against their uncle, the statement said the risk to the business meant they would "actively pursue our options for recourse against Sir Frederick".

Sir Frederick said he found the statement "baffling", labelling it "inaccurate, inept and ill-informed".

He insisted he "got not one but two substantial offers of more than £1bn" for the Ritz, claiming there was "documentary evidence of the £1.3bn offer".

"We too would have liked to have resolved this in the family," he said.

"Sadly, the appalling tactic of spying on fellow family members have complicated matters considerably."

Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg previously told Sky News the case centred on a relatively simple claim.

"This isn't Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, something out of Dickens," he said.

"It's Barclay against Barclay. It's Frederick Barclay suing the children of his brother for allegedly invading his privacy."