A high court judge has criticised Sir Frederick Barclay, the billionaire owner of the Daily Telegraph, for “reprehensible” behaviour during a divorce battle and ordered him to pay his estranged wife £100m.
Mr Justice Cohen said Barclay, 86, had breached a court order to sell a luxury yacht and produce the proceeds, and had instead sold the vessel and kept the money for himself.
“Part of [Barclay’s] available assets included a luxury yacht which was on the market for sale,” the judge said in his ruling on Wednesday. “I made orders intended to control the sale and the use of the proceeds. He completely ignored those orders, sold the yacht and applied the equity for his own use. I regarded that behaviour as reprehensible.”
Cohen ruled that Lady Hiroko Barclay should be awarded £100m. She had wanted £120m. The judge added that Barclay had made an offer which might have led to Lady Barclay receiving nothing at all following 34 years of marriage.
Barclay, whose family has owned the Telegraph newspapers since 2004, had called on the judge to prevent publication of the ruling. However, his wife had said the family was in the “public eye” and the ruling should be made public.
Cohen ruled that public had a right to know how badly Barclay had behaved and that stripped him of the right to privacy. The judge said he had decided to make elements of the ruling public, but he would not publish the full document.
“[Barclay] is a public figure who should have been aware of the potential consequences of disobedience of court orders and his behaviour in the proceedings should not be allowed to pass completely under the radar,” Cohen said in his ruling.
Cohen said Barclay had breached court orders over the sale of the luxury yacht, and “repeatedly” ignored orders to produce documents or answer questions about it during the hearing.
Cohen said he was “critical, indeed at times very critical” of the way Barclay had presented his case.
The £100m awarded to Lady Barclay, in two £50m tranches, is one of the highest divorce settlements ever handed down by a UK court, which have become popular venues for the global super-rich to fight their personal battles.
The record divorce payout was £435m to Tatiana Akhmedova, ex-wife of the Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov, in 2016. However, he did not give her the money and she went on to sue their son, claiming that her ex-husband had given him huge sums of money to hide his assets. The court last month ordered the son, Temur Akhmedov, to pay his mother £75m.
Barclay and his brother, Sir David Barclay, who died earlier this year, were among the richest and most high-profile business people in the country. The brothers’ empire stretched from the parent company of the Telegraph and Spectator to the online retailer Very – previously known as Shop Direct, and before that Littlewoods – and the delivery firm Yodel.
They also owned the Ritz hotel until they sold it last year to a Qatari billionaire. Frederick Barclay and his daughter Amanda sued the relatives of David Barclay over the bugging of private conversations at the five-star hotel.
The brothers mostly lived in a castle on the island of Brecqhou in the Channel Islands. They bought the 32-hectare (80-acre) island for almost £3.5m. The Mayfair estate agent ad had described it as impressive, highlighting features such as a stone manor house, a private harbour and a helipad. Ownership also came with “tax free status”.
In a statement Barclay said: “I am saddened that after 34 years my marriage has come to an end. This was not something I wanted. I hope my former wife can find happiness. I wish her well.”