Business tycoon accused of reneging on divorce settlement

Business tycoon Sir Frederick Barclay was accused on Monday of refusing to pay a £100mn divorce settlement to his estranged wife following a bitter marital breakdown.

Lady Hiroko Barclay appeared in the High Court in London seeking to have her ex-husband sent to prison for contempt of court after allegedly breaching the settlement.

She said that Frederick Barclay — who along with his late twin brother David built a business empire spanning prestigious hotels including London’s Ritz, shipping businesses and newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph — could get whatever money he wanted but was withholding it from her.

In May 2021 in the High Court, Justice Jonathan Cohen ordered Frederick Barclay to pay £50mn of the £100mn divorce settlement last year, and the remaining £50mn in April.

The settlement was one of the biggest divorce awards in recent English legal history.

In a document prepared for the court on Monday, Hiroko Barclay’s lawyers said: “We are confident . . . that the court will be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that [Frederick Barclay] has or has had the means to pay each of the judgment debts and that he has refused or neglected to do so.”

Frederick Barclay’s lawyers said in documents lodged with the court that he was unable to pay the divorcement settlement and was lying “awake at night” in fear of prison.

In one document, the lawyers said he was “highly motivated to comply with the orders because of his abject fear of prison” but “does not have the money to make the payments”.

Frederick Barclay owns a 50 per cent stake in a vast estate on the private island of Brecqhou in the Channel Islands, but the document added: “There is no prospect of a sale/transfer to the wider Barclay family.”

Cohen in May last year called Barclay’s behaviour “reprehensible” after the tycoon “completely ignored” court orders and sold a luxury yacht.

The business empire assembled by Frederick and David Barclay includes a series of assets that are held by a trust, which is controlled by relatives.

Hiroko Barclay told the court on Monday that Frederick had fought with David on a yacht as part of a battle for control over the family’s businesses.

She said to her ex-husband’s barrister Charles Howard QC: “There was a fight on a boat when we were on holiday . . . David and Frederick were punching each other.” 

Frederick and David Barclay once kept a low profile, but Frederick sued relatives of his late brother in 2020.

It was alleged that David was complicit in bugging 1,000 of Frederick’s private conversations at the Ritz hotel.

In 2021, Frederick reached a settlement with his nephews, and withdrew a High Court lawsuit against them for the bugging of his conversations at the Ritz.

Monday’s court hearing could be reported in full after Cohen rejected an application by Frederick Barclay’s nephews to keep certain financial information private.

Media groups led by The Guardian and including the Financial Times opposed the application. The court hearing continues.

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