Billionaire Barclay Brother’s Video Shows ‘Bugging’ at The Ritz
(Bloomberg) -- Video footage in a court dispute between two factions of one of the U.K.’s wealthiest families allegedly shows a son of one of the billionaire Barclay twins handling a recording device at London’s Ritz Hotel.
Dueling allegations of bugged conversations and video recordings have become the focal point of an ugly split between twins Frederick and David Barclay that has played out in a London court this year.
The minute-long video, recorded late one evening in January and released Monday by Frederick, allegedly shows Alistair Barclay, David’s son, entering the conservatory at the five-star Ritz, allegedly holding an adapter containing the bug.
It “shows him placing or removing a recording device that led to the recordings,” relied on in the court dispute, Judge Mark Warby said earlier this month at a preliminary hearing. The camera was installed by hotel security on his Uncle Frederick’s request after he began to suspect that he was being bugged.
The Barclay brothers bought the hotel for 75 million pounds ($91 million) in 1995. The once inseparable pair, who also own the Telegraph newspaper, have since handed control of their businesses to their children, who are now locked in a bitter family feud.
Frederick and Amanda Barclay are suing their relatives after Frederick discovered that Alistair had engaged in the “covert audio surveillance.” Frederick argues that access to the conversations allowed the other side of the family to outmaneuver them on the sale of the Ritz.
The hotel, which opened in London’s Mayfair in 1906, was sold for less than 800 million pounds in March. But Frederick’s lawyers said at a court hearing this month that he had been in talks to sell the hotel for nearly twice that.
A spokesman for David and Alistair’s side of the family declined to comment on the video Monday morning.
Wearing gray sweatpants and a maroon Harvard sweatshirt, Alistair purportedly appears to look directly at the camera before walking over to touch it. The cream-colored chair is where Frederick would frequently sit while talking business with his daughter Amanda on the flower-print sofa.
Alistair’s lawyer, Heather Rogers, said that it’s accepted that Frederick and Amanda were recorded without their consent and that at least some of the transcripts were shared between the defendants.
But she attempted to turn the table on Frederick and Amanda by arguing that the video was an invasion of Alistair’s privacy.
In response to a court application made earlier this month to release the video to the media, she said Alistair was captured on a secret camera.
Judge Warby rejected the media’s request to hand over the video, but left the door open for Frederick and Amanda to release it “if they so choose.”
Frederick Barclay said that the public interest in the video outweighs any privacy concerns and called for legislation to outlaw such recordings.
“I am putting this video evidence forward as a graphic demonstration of how easy it is to spy on people in public places,” Frederick said in a 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.”
Alistair, Aidan, Howard and Andrew Barclay, all from David’s side of the family, learned of Frederick and Amanda’s negotiations with prospective buyers of the Ritz from 94 hours of audio recordings and 1,000 separate conversations captured over a period of several months, Hefin Rees, Frederick and Amanda’s lawyer, told a London two weeks ago.
“He is a man who is now left to contemplate his nephews’ betrayal and a father who has witnessed the prejudicial treatment of his daughter by her cousins,” Rees said.
The recordings allowed the nephews to learn of a 1.3 billion-pound offer made by Saudi Arabia-based fund Sidra Capital for the hotel, Rees said. At the time, the two sides of the family were conducting separate negotiations.
The hotel was eventually sold by David’s side of the family to a private Qatar investor. Filings show the new owner of the Ritz is Abdulhadi Mana Al-Hajri, a 40-year-old businessman and the brother-in-law of Qatar’s ruler.
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