Billionaire Telegraph owner Sir David Barclay dead at 86

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Sir David Barclay, left, and his twin brother Sir Frederick after receiving their knighthoods from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Photo: PA
Sir David Barclay, left, and his twin brother Sir Frederick after receiving their knighthoods from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Photo: PA

Sir David Barclay, the co-owner of the Telegraph newspapers, has died at age 86.

The Daily Telegraph first reported on the death, posting an obituary late on Tuesday night. The paper said Sir David had died unexpectedly on Sunday after a short illness. The cause of death was not given.

Sir David owned the Telegraph newspapers with his twin brother Frederick. The pair built a business empire together that began with hotels and expanded to include shipping, retail and — since 2004 — ownership of Telegraph Media Group.

The business empire helped the pair amass a combined wealth of £7bn ($9.6bn), according to the Sunday Times Rich List. They were the joint 17th richest people in Britain last year.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson, a former Telegraph reporter and columnist, paid tribute to Sir David on Twitter.

“Farewell with respect and admiration to Sir David Barclay who rescued a great newspaper, created many thousands of jobs across the UK and who believed passionately in the independence of this country and what it could achieve,” Johnson tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Sir David — older than his brother by 10 minutes — was born into a large family in Hammersmith in 1934, according to the Telegraph. The twins’ father was a travelling salesman who died when they were 13 years old. The pair left school a year later.

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Entrepreneurial from a young age, the brothers got into property development in London’s Notting Hill in the 1960s. That provided a launch pad to buy a string of hotels in the 1970s. Expansion into shipping followed in the 1980s before a push into media in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Beyond ownership of the Telegraph and — until last year — London’s Ritz hotel, the Barclay brothers are perhaps best known for their closely guarded privacy. The pair rarely made public statements or appearances and lived much of the time on the Guernsey island of Sark.

The brothers built “a fortresslike neo-Gothic mansion” on the island “which came to symbolise their preference for privacy and fiscal independence,” the Telegraph said in its obituary. Relations with locals “had their difficulties” but had recently become “more harmonious,” the paper said.

The Barclay brothers’ preference for privacy was shattered last year by a court case in which Sir Frederick accused his brother and his sons of secretly listening in on his conversations at the Ritz through a bugging device. The dispute was linked to the sale of the Ritz last year.

Sir David and his brother were knighted for services to charity in 2000. The BBC reported that the twins’ charitable concerns had donated around £40m by the time they were honoured.

Sir David had four sons and nine grandchildren, according to the Telegraph.

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