Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the Daily Telegraph’s joint owner Sir David Barclay, who has died aged 86 after a short illness.
Along with his identical twin Sir Frederick, Sir David built a vast business empire which began with hotels and expanded to include shipping, retailing and, since 2004, ownership of Telegraph Media Group.
Mr Johnson, who worked as a columnist for the paper, on Wednesday tweeted: “Farewell with respect and admiration to Sir David Barclay who rescued a great newspaper, created many thousands of jobs across the UK and who believed passionately in the independence of this country and what it could achieve.”
The Daily Telegraph said the Barclay brothers “operated as one” throughout their business career, while steadfastly avoiding personal publicity and media scrutiny.
The pair had an estimated shared wealth of around £7 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2020.
They bought the London Ritz Hotel in 1995 and sold it last year, leading to a family row which resulted in court proceedings.
Farewell with respect and admiration to Sir David Barclay who rescued a great newspaper, created many thousands of jobs across the UK and who believed passionately in the independence of this country and what it could achieve.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 13, 2021
The brothers, who were knighted in 2000, turned to media ownership in 1992 by buying weekly newspaper The European, which closed in 1998, while they also owned The Scotsman from 1995 to 2005.
They first expressed interest in The Daily Telegraph to its Canadian owner Conrad Black in May 2003, and while a private deal was overruled by a US court in November of that year, the Barclays eventually acquired the broadsheet at auction seven months later for £665 million.
The paper quoted a colleague of the brothers as saying Sir David was distinct from Sir Frederick in that he was “more attuned to taking a risk, and Frederick was generally willing to have a look but would never bet the farm”.
Sir David and Sir Frederick were born into a large family in Hammersmith on October 27 1934, with David the older by 10 minutes.
Their father, also Frederick, was a travelling salesman from Kilmarnock who died when the boys were 13.
David and two of his brothers were evacuated several times during the Second World War, the Telegraph said, and ultimately the twins left school aged 14.
Sir David was always a voracious reader, obsessed with newspapers, business, economics and politics, and who had always said he had been educated at the “university of life”, the paper said.
It was reported Sir David died on Sunday.