Barclay brother releases video of alleged Ritz hotel bugging

UK Telegraph newspapers owners locked in bitter dispute

Frederick Barclay has released footage of his nephew allegedly planting a bug in The Ritz Hotel, claiming the spying casts doubt over the fitness of his relatives to run the Telegraph newspapers.

The emergence of the CCTV evidence is the latest twist in a bitter battle between the billionaire Barclay twins – Sir Frederick and Sir David – and their children over a business empire that spans the Telegraph, online retailer Shop Direct and until recently the Ritz.

Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda are suing a group of Sir David’s direct relatives and one aide over allegations of breach of confidence, misuse of private information and breach of data protection rights.


The footage from January allegedly shows Alistair Barclay, Sir David's youngest son, planting a listening device disguised as a plug adaptor in a room of the Ritz frequently used by his uncle Sir Frederick.

Devices in the room recorded about 1,000 private conversations, according to the claimants, which they said provided valuable information that was used in disputes. Sir Frederick’s lawyers have argued that “commercial espionage on a vast scale” benefited his relatives and allowed them to sell the Ritz at what was allegedly half its market price.

Heather Rogers, lawyer for the defendants, has previously told the court that Sir Frederick had made his claims in an “eye-catching and emotive” way. “This is a dispute about family members and, from the defendants’ point of view, it is unfortunate that they are being canvassed in public,” she said.

Sir Frederick said on Monday that it was “in the public interest” to release a video showing a “deliberate and premeditated invasion of my privacy”.

“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,” he said in a statement, in which he also called for tighter laws against the use of listening devices.

Referencing the editorial code of Britain's main press regulator, Sir Frederick also questioned whether some of his relatives were, as directors of a news organisation, living up to the standards that would be expected of newspaper editors. Aidan and Howard Barclay, both defendants in the case, are directors of the Telegraph Media Group.


“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.

The defendants declined to comment on any aspect of Sir Frederick’s allegations and criticism.

Sir Frederick highlighted sections of the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s rules against publishing or obtaining material obtained through listening devices.

“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,” he said.

In skeleton arguments provided to the court earlier this month, Sir Frederick's lawyers claimed that Quest, a private investigation company chaired by John Stevens, the former commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, supplied a bug to the defendants.

“Without proper legislation, members of the public are vulnerable to invasive surveillance by individuals or companies like Quest who can obtain sensitive and personal information that can be used to harmful effect,” Sir Frederick said. Quest did not respond to a previous request for comment on the court proceedings.

The defendants are due to file a defence to the claim at the High Court in June. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020