Sir David Barclay has died aged 86 after a short illness
Billionaire media mogul and co-owner of The Daily Telegraph Sir David Barclay has died aged 86 after a short illness.
His newspaper reported last night that he passed away on Sunday.
Together with his identical twin Sir Frederick Barclay, Sir David built a business empire, making him one of Britain’s richest men with an estimated shared wealth of around £7billion.
They were knighted in 2000 in the first ‘double knighting’ ceremony in recent history.
The twins, commonly known as ‘The Barclay Brothers’, launched their business investing in hotels before expanding into shipping, retail and the media.
In July 2004, the Barclays bought The Telegraph Media Group from British businessman Conrad Black. Its stable of titles included The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Spectator.
The brothers had previously bought out other media outlets, first in 1992 when they acquired The European, a weekly newspaper which closed in 1998, followed by The Scotsman, which they purchased in 1995 before selling it a decade later.
They quickly emerged as major players in the media industry and brought former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil into their fold to help guide their interests.
In 1997 they acquired The Sunday Business in 1997, relaunching it as a competitor to the weekend Financial Times.
But the brothers had long harboured interest in buying The Telegraph and in May 2003 approached its beleaguered owner Lord Black, who was battling shareholders.
Sir David faxed him from Monte Carlo simply saying: ‘I wish to register our interest should you contemplate any serious change in your UK interests’. Lord Black replied: ‘Conditions are quite manageable. No assets are for sale.’
But hushed negotiations for The Barclays’ takeover began months later as Lord Black’s predicament worsened.
After early legal complications blocked an initial agreement, the twins finally bought The Telegraph Media Group at auction in 2004, with a winning bid of £665million.
Together with his identical twin Sir Frederick Barclay (left), Sir David (right) launched a business empire making him one of Britain’s richest men with an estimated shared wealth of around £7billion
In recent years, the brothers increasingly delegated leadership of the media group and wider empire to Sir David’s sons Aidan and Howard.
Sir David in particular has been admired as an astute reader of political rhythms and was described by a friend as ‘able to read the economic tea-leaves like few people of his generation’.
But he resisted applying an pressure on his editors, who, although aware of the twins’ support for Margaret Thatcher’s small-state policies, were given free reign over the content of the paper.
Born David Rowat Barclay, he is 10 minutes older than his twin Frederick Hugh Barclay. They were born into a large family in Hammersmith on October 27 1934.
The twins’ had a tough childhood as they were evacuated several times during The Second World War, witnessing first hand the bombing of Coventry.
Aged 14, the brothers left school leading David to often claim he had been educated in the ‘University of Life.’
He first worked in accounts at the General Electric Company, before taking on jobs as a decorator and running a corner shop. By 1961 the twins had launched an estate agents in Notting Hill, where they began buying and trading properties. Soon they started redeveloping dilapidated boarding houses as small hotels.
Their first major hotel purchase was Hyde Park North and Hyde Park West. They acquired more than 15 hotels within a decade and in 1995 bought the Ritz for £75 million making a suite available to Margaret Thatcher for the last weeks of her life.
Last year the twins sold the Ritz to a brother-in-law of the ruler of Qatar. It led to an infamous row between the brothers over the hotel’s sale process and price, which ended in court proceedings.
In happier times, the Barclays bought a joint home on the rocky outcrop of Brecqhou, off the Channel island of Sark.
They had bought the island for £2.3million in 1993, building a fortress like neo-Gothic mansion, symbolising their preference for privacy.
Pope Benedict XVI made Sir David a papal knight. Later in life he became closer to the Catholic Church after first experimenting with several denominations, from Pentecostalism to Anglicanism.
He married much-photographed model Zoe Newton in 1955, when he was 20 and she was 19. They had three sons, Aidan, Howard and Duncan.
They divorced in the 1980s before he first remarried Reyna Oropeza, in 1989, with whom he had another son, Alistair. He had nine grandchildren.