Sir Frederick Barclay releases footage of alleged Ritz bugging

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  • May 18, 2020
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Sir Frederick Barclay has released CCTV footage that allegedly shows his nephew handling a bugging device at London’s Ritz hotel.

The 85-year-old has released the clip in an ongoing bitter legal battle with his twin brother David’s side of the family over the future of their multibillion-pound empire.

Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda are suing three of Sir David Barclay’s sons – Alistair, Aidan and Howard – and Aidan’s son Andrew over 1,000 conversations secretly recorded in the conservatory of the Ritz over several months. They claimed in court documents earlier this month that the recordings enabled his nephews to sell the Ritz, which he co-owns with his brother, for “half the market price”.

“The decision to release this video of this deliberate and premeditated invasion of my privacy is in the public interest,” said Sir Frederick, in a rare public statement. “I do not want anyone else to go through the awful experience of having their personal and private conversations listened to by scores of strangers.”

Sir Frederick claims in court documents that among 94 hours of recordings were discussions about an offer for the Ritz hotel for potentially as much as £1.3bn from the Saudi Arabia-based Sidra Capital.

The 114-year-old hotel was sold by David’s side of the family in March for significantly less, to Abdulhadi Mana al-Hajri, a Qatari businessman who is the brother-in-law of the Gulf state’s rulers, despite a threat from Frederick and Amanda Barclay of legal action if it was sold for less than £1bn.

The high court has previously heard that the “elaborate system of covert recording” came to light in January when Alistair appeared to be filmed on CCTV “handling the bug placed in the conservatory at the Ritz”, where Frederick was known to “smoke a cigar” and hold meetings.

The legal action alleges misuse of private information, breach of confidence and breach of data protection laws.

The defendants have not yet filed their defence or issued a statement regarding the video.

Financial pressure on the Barclay brothers’ businesses has prompted the sale of the Ritz and potentially other assets including the Telegraph, the delivery business Yodel and the online retailer Very Group (previously known as Shop Direct and before that Littlewoods).

Sir Frederick also added that the move to covertly record him was a breach of the editors’ code of practice followed by the Telegraph, which is chaired by Aidan Barclay.

“I believe it is very much in the public interest for people – and in particular readers of the Daily Telegraph – to understand that a newspaper proprietor is not abiding by the strict rules of the editors’ code,” he said.

Paragraph 10 of the code, which sets out ethical standards for journalism, states: “The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest.”

Sir Frederick said: “Newspaper proprietors hold positions of great responsibility and influence. For the editors’ code to have any effect on journalists’ conduct, it should be upheld by those at the very top of an organisation.”

In December, Sir David strengthened his family’s grip on the businesses, appointing Aidan and Howard as “persons with significant control” of Ellerman Holdings, the holding company for the Barclays’ UK assets. Each was given “more than 25% but not more than 50% of the share ownership and voting rights”.

Sir Frederick and Sir David are no longer beneficiaries of the family trust, and Amanda has been left with a 25% share and no power to block David’s side of the family in any big decisions.