December 8, 2021

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David Barclay, Reclusive British Business Mogul, Dies at 86

“Farewell with respect and admiration to Sir David Barclay,” Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who had twice worked for The Telegraph, as a Brussels correspondent and as a political columnist, said on Twitter. The newspaper was founded as The Daily Telegraph and Courier in 1855.

Mr. Johnson lauded Mr. Barclay as someone who “rescued a great newspaper, created many thousands of jobs across the U.K., and who believed passionately in the independence of this country and what it could achieve.” Mr. Barclay supported Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

David Rowat Barclay was born on Oct. 27, 1934, in London 10 minutes before his twin brother. The family was a large one; different accounts put the number of children as high as nine. David was evacuated several times as a child during the Blitz. His father, also named Frederick, was a traveling salesman who died when the twins were 13, The Telegraph said. Their mother was Beatrice Cecilia (Taylor) Barclay.

After leaving school, Mr. Barclay held jobs in the accounts department at General Electric and as a decorator, and ran a corner shop. In 1961, the brothers set up an estate agency in West London.

They began buying hotels in London in the late 1960s and a decade later began branching out into other industries, purchasing the shipping company Ellerman Lines. Over the next four decades the brothers built their wealth by buying and selling breweries, shipping companies, media groups, retailers and hotels, including Claridge’s, which led to a bitter ownership battle about seven years ago.

Their first foray into media was in 1992, when they bought a new weekly newspaper called The European; it went out of business six years later. They bought The Scotsman, based in Edinburgh, in 1995, and owned it for 10 years; two years later they bought the financial newspaper Sunday Business, which closed 11 years later.

The brothers’ initial attempt to buy the Telegraph Group from its Canadian owners, led by Conrad M. Black, in a private deal in 2003 was blocked by U.S. courts. But in June 2004 they secured the company at auction for £665 million.

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