The Ritz hotel was sold for “half the market price” by the nephews of Sir Frederick Barclay after secretly recording conversations between him and a Saudi investor offering £ 1.3 billion, the High Court has learned.
The 85-year-old billionaire businessman and his daughter Amanda are suing three of his twin brother Sir David’s sons – Alistair, Aidan and Howard – and Aidan’s son Andrew for 94 hours of recordings made over several months.
The “elaborate secret recording system” was revealed in January when Alistair was filmed on CCTV “dealing with the bug placed in the Ritz conservatory”, the High Court in London has already heard.
In a new remote preliminary hearing today, Judge Warby learned that the recording of Sir Frederick and Amanda Barclay’s conversations was “large-scale commercial espionage”.
Hefin Rees QC, representing Sir Frederick and Ms Barclay, said in written submissions that the tapes “captured over 1,000 separate conversations over a period of several months”, including conversations with the plaintiffs’ attorneys as well as ” bankers and businessmen “.
Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick posing after receiving their knight titles from the Queen at Buckingham Palace
Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda are suing three of his twin brother Sir David’s sons – Alistair, Aidan and Howard – and Aidan’s son Andrew for 94 hours of recordings over several months. (photo: Howard and Aidan Barclay)
He added that “a separate Wi-Fi bug was also used,” provided by the private investigation company Quest, which “billed 405 hours of their time to listen and transcribe the recordings”, with transcripts later. “shared between the accused and others”.
The court heard that Sir Frederick, who had “placed great trust” in Aidan and Howard Barclay to run his and his brother’s business empire, is “now left to contemplate the betrayal of his nephews.”
Sir Frederick and Ms Barclay bring legal action for abuse of private information, breach of trust and breach of data protection laws, against their four relatives and Philip Peters, who “occupies a position on the board of directors” of the Barclay group of companies.
Mr. Rees argued that the documents previously disclosed to his clients “undoubtedly reveal that the defendants have derived significant financial and business benefit from the illegal use of the tapes.”
He added that they had been made at a time “that there were significant commercial disputes pending between the parties concerning, among other things, the sale of the Ritz hotel, the financial performance and the management of the group, (Amanda Barclay) continued financial interests in the group and Sir Frederick’s divorce proceedings ”.
Sir Frederick Barclay’s nephews have sold the Ritz hotel for ‘half the market price’ after secretly recording conversations between him and a Saudi investor offering £ 1.3 billion, the High Court has learned
In March, Sir Frederick said he had received competing offers to buy the Ritz for more than £ 1 billion, adding that any decision to sell the establishment for “less than the appropriate value would result in further disputes “.
The Ritz has since been sold to an anonymous Qatari investor for an unknown price, estimated at around £ 750million.
Mr Rees told the court the defendants overheard “Sir Frederick’s conversations with Sidra Capital, who at the time had made an initial offer of around £ 1.3 billion for the hotel’s acquisition Ritz “.
He added: “Despite this, the defendants sold the Ritz hotel to another buyer in Qatar at a price that appears to be half the market price. One is left to speculate why.
Mr Rees argued that the recordings allowed defendants “to anticipate every movement of plaintiffs in advance, plan their business strategy accordingly, including knowing what legal advice plaintiffs were seeking and getting at this crucial time when their professional and personal relations had been severed. and the respective interests of the plaintiffs and defendants were in conflict ”.
At the February hearing, Heather Rogers QC, representing the five defendants, argued that there was “a lot of information that would have been in the possession of my clients … which they have completely exempt from the recordings.”
She added that her clients had “ample opportunity” to “disseminate it before an injunction was granted”, but that there was “no evidence of dissemination”.
Judge Warby will continue to hear oral argument on Wednesday afternoon.