Billion pound price tag on London's Ritz hotel fuels owners feud

Twins who have owned London landmark for 25 years fell out before selling

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 17, 2012 People walk past the Ritz hotel in central London on December 17, 2012.  Several bids of more than £1 billion ($1.3 billion, 1.2 billion euros) have been received as offers to buy London's Ritz hotel, co-owner Frederick Barclay said on March 4, 2020. / AFP / Carl COURT
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London's Ritz hotel has been a stomping ground for the global rich for longer than anyone can remember but proposals to sell the property have exposed a bitter feud within the family that has owned it since 1995.

A quarter of a century after he personally put down a deposit of £7.5m for the trophy building on the edge of Green Park, Sir Frederick Barclay warned his twin fellow owner Sir David and the wider world on Wednesday there was a danger it would be off-loaded too cheaply by the board, which he alleges is under the effective control of his nephews.

Fuelled by a fear that his daughter Amanda was being frozen out of the business, Sir Frederick, who is taking legal action against other members of the family, has received bids of £1 billion.

"There have been a number of competing offers for this first-class hotel in excess of £1 billion," he said.

"I have no doubt that such offers will be considered so that the Ritz is sold at the right time and for a proper price."

Media reports have however said bids for the 136-room hotel were coming in around £700 million, less than hoped for but ten times the figure originally paid by the Barclay twins.

In  a new twist in the recent public dispute between the 85-year old businessmen, Sir Frederick said there was "no place for any sale at less than full value".

The billionaire brothers were worth £8 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2019.

As well as the Ritz, their empire includes the Daily Telegraph newspaper and the Spectator magazine, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his name, and retail operations. The newspaper, which is a staunch supporter of the prime minister, is also believed to be for sale as part of the family's cash raising efforts to restructure private holding companies.

The twins were once seen as inseparable and live in a fortress castle in the Channel Islands.

Their relationship has been under stress since claims Sir Frederick  and his daughter were secretly recorded at the Ritz by a nephew.

The bugging came after Amanda was removed as a director of the Ritz and Sir Frederick was going through a divorce from his wife.

British media reports this week said the bugging came against a backdrop of family infighting over the direction of their business interests and assets.

The High Court was told the listening devices provided confidential business information.

Sir Frederick added he had been "deeply shocked and saddened about recent events involving unethical conduct and intrusion" into his privacy.

"I hope we can get these family matters resolved so that we can all move on," he said.

According to the hotel’s latest financial filings, profit before tax almost halved from £12.8m to £7.9m last year while turnover increased from £46m to £47m.

Opened in 1906 by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz, the high society hotel hosted Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s and was used as a meeting place by Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle to discuss operations during World War Two.