WHO are the Barclay brothers? The publicity shy hoteliers, who are in the headlines here this week, are well known in the UK. They are titled billionaires who live in a castle on their very own Channel Island and own Britain's poshest newspapers – but they are far from your classic English toffs. Now in their 70s, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay were born to working-class Scottish parents who had moved to London.
They worked their way up, starting in the accounts department at General Electric before moving into property. They worked as estate agents and began buying, fixing up and selling on houses before becoming property developers in their own right.
By the 1970s they had moved into hotels, eventually including the Ritz in London.
Their wide-ranging business interests have included shipping and brewing as well as hotels and newspapers.
'Forbes' magazine estimates their wealth at €2.4bn. But despite their own media interests, the pair are exceptionally media shy. We do know that both have married, and live between homes in Monaco and Brecqhou in the Channel Islands.
They have picked up knighthoods for services to charity and bought newspapers including the 'Daily Telegraph' and 'Sunday Telegraph', and the small circulation but influential 'Spectator' magazine.
The brothers are in the headlines here because of correspondence between one of their employees and the now head of the Department of Finance John Moran, in relation to debts owned by their Belfast born business partner Paddy McKillen.
The Barclays and McKillen between them control London hotels Claridge's, the Connaught and the Berkeley, but there is no love lost between the sides – who each want the other out of the deal.
The twists and turns of their scrap have been played out in the UK courts for the past year, and have now landed at the doors of the Department of Finance.