Crime | February 29, 2020 8:42 am

Billionaire Twins Embroiled in Hotel Bugging Controversy

Inside the unexpected conflict between Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay

Ritz Hotel
The Ritz is at the center of a conflict between two reclusive and wealthy siblings.
Russ London/Creative Commons

Conflict within wealthy families is more than just the stuff of popular television dramas. In England right now, high drama is playing out inside the Barclay family — and it involves, among other things, secretive recording devices planted within a famed hotel.

The conflict is between 85-year-old identical twins Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, who own the Ritz Hotel and the Telegraph, among a host of other assets. A 2012 article in The New Yorker discussed their penchant for buying up land on Sark, one of the Channel Islands notable for its long-standing traditions — Sark had a feudal system in place until 2008 —and seeing to exert more control over it. But the drama that those purchases sparked pales in comparison to the conflict currently running through the family.

At Fortune, a new article explores the controversial territory that the twins have entered at the age of 85. David’s sons have sought control over the Ritz, while Frederick’s daughter Amanda is no longer on the hotel’s board. And from there, the subterfuge increases:

The family tensions came to a light in a London court after Frederick discovered that his nephew Alistair Barclay had “engaged in covert audio surveillance” to record his conversations with Amanda in the conservatory of the hotel. The two had been talking about “potential acquisitions and disposals of business assets” as well as the structure and financing of the group.

As Fortune‘s article notes, the Ritz is the brothers’ most highly-valued enterprise, which helps explain why concerns over its fate have sparked so much tension. A report at The Guardian quoted several observers who expressed shock at the brothers’ falling out. One source told the newspaper, “They have always conducted all their business under the radar. I’m shocked.”

It’s an unexpected shift in the brothers’ dynamic — and it’s a a conflict that hasn’t yet reached its conclusion.

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