Judge condemns ‘reprehensible’ Barclay over money dispute with estranged wife

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One of Britain’s most famous businessmen has been criticised by a High Court judge after becoming embroiled in a fight over money with his estranged wife.

Mr Justice Cohen said Sir Frederick Barclay, 86, sold a luxury yacht and “applied the equity for his own use” in breach of orders.

He said he regarded that as “reprehensible”, in a ruling published on Wednesday.

The judge said he had ruled that Lady Hiroko Barclay should receive lump sums totalling £100 million. She had wanted £120 million.

Sir Frederick had made an offer which might have led to Lady Barclay receiving nothing, the judge said.

Lady Hiroko Barclay
Lady Hiroko Barclay (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He considered arguments over how big a payout she should get at a trial in March, following the breakdown of their 34-year marriage.

The judge, who heard that Sir Frederick and Lady Hiroko were married in May 1987, allowed journalists to attend hearings but placed wide limits on what could be reported.

He said on Wednesday that he had decided not to publish his entire ruling – which has been given to Sir Frederick, Lady Barclay and their legal teams – but to reveal some detail.

“The principal criticism that I made of (Sir Frederick) related to his treatment of orders made for the production of documents and answers to questions,” said Mr Justice Cohen in the ruling published on Wednesday.

“Those orders were made specifically in the context of (him) seeking to argue that loan notes to which he was entitled and which constituted the vast bulk of his wealth were not likely to be honoured, in full or in part, by reason of an alleged absence of liquidity in the underlying family businesses.”

The judge said Sir Frederick “repeatedly” ignored orders to produce documents or answer questions.

He added: “Part of (Sir Frederick’s) available assets included a luxury yacht which was on the market for sale.

“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.”

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay after receiving their knighthoods
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay after receiving their knighthoods (Michael Stephens/PA)

Sir David died aged 86 in January.

Their interests included the Telegraph Newspaper Group and The Ritz hotel in London.

The family also has links to the Channel Islands and Monaco.

Mr Justice Cohen recently signalled an end to the Barclays’ marriage at a separate hearing, by issuing a divorce decree.

Lady Hiroko had petitioned for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, he was told.

Mr Justice Cohen pronounced a decree nisi.

A marriage does not formally end until a decree absolute is made.

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