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Daily Telegraph owner Sir David Barclay dies at 86

Sir David Barclay, one of the two billionaire brothers who own the Telegraph newspaper group, has died unexpectedly after a short illness aged 86.

Working in partnership with his identical twin, Frederick, the pair became two of the most successful British businessmen of their time, venturing into hotels, shipping, retail and newspaper ownership over several decades.

In the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List, the Barclay brothers had an estimated wealth of £7bn.

The twins started out in hotels, with their first purchases including the Cadogan in Sloane Street in 1968, the Londonderry in Park Lane two years later and the Kensington Palace in 1973. They went on to acquire more than 15 hotels over the next decade.

In 1983 they took over shipping and brewery group Ellerman Lines for £47m. They sold off the ships and travel company, and six years later, the pubs and breweries alone brought in five times as much as they paid for the group.

They then ventured into newspapers, buying the European, Robert Maxwell’s doomed attempt at a Europe-wide paper, in 1992. In 1995 they bought the Scotsman – which they sold to Johnston Press in 2006 – and finally acquired the Telegraph newspaper group in 2004.

They amassed a number of trophy assets over the years, including the Ritz in 1995 and later the Mirabeau hotel in Monte Carlo, as well as Brecqhou, a small rocky island 80 yards from Sark in the Channel where they constructed a £60m turreted castle designed by the neoclassical architect Quinlan Terry.

David Barclay, like his brother, was known for protecting their privacy, rarely speaking publicly. He once said: “We are private about everything we do. It stems from our philosophy of not talking about ourselves, or claiming how clever we are, or boasting about how successful we have been. We would, anyway, claim that we have been more fortunate than many others.”

The Barclays made headlines last year when it was revealed David’s sons, Alistair, Aidan and Howard, and Aidan’s son Andrew, had bugged the conservatory of the Ritz hotel to secretly record Frederick in order, they claimed, to protect the family and its business interests.

He and his brother were knighted in 2000 in recognition of their contribution to medical research and children’s charities through their joint charitable foundation. Founded in 1989, the foundation has since given more than £15m, including donations to the Great Ormond Street and Alder Hey hospitals.

David Barclay married model Zoe Newton in 1955, with whom he had three sons, Aidan, Howard and Duncan. After they divorced, he had another son, Alistair, with Reyna Oropeza, his second wife, and went on to have nine grandchildren.

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