Qatari investor buys Ritz Hotel, inflaming Barclay family tensions

A Qatari investor has agreed to buy London’s Ritz Hotel, one of the capital’s most coveted properties, in a deal that has further inflamed tensions between feuding factions of the billionaire Barclay family.

The deal, announced late on Friday with limited details, came on the same day that the hotel shut its doors for the first time in 113 years after the coronavirus crisis placed London on lockdown.

The sale took place over several months amid a bitter family fight between Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, who acquired the Mayfair hotel in 1995 for £75m.

The transaction price and the name of the Qatari buyer were not provided by its legal advisers from the UK law firm Macfarlanes, whose press release included a statement attributed to a spokesperson for the acquirer.

“It is a privilege to become the owner of the iconic Ritz Hotel and have the opportunity to build on its innate style and grand traditions,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ve closed on the deal,” said one person involved.

However, a representative for Sir Frederick Barclay threatened to contest the deal through the courts.

“We are surprised and perturbed by the announcement the Ritz hotel has allegedly been sold. We have neither been consulted nor have we approved this sale,” the spokesperson told the Financial Times. “As we outlined earlier this month, any potential purchaser would face significant litigation if this deal is not approved by all sides.

“Sadly we cannot get away from the fact that this deal, if it has occurred, appears to have been pushed through in the middle of the coronavirus crisis in the hope that it will be uncontested.”

The sale is the latest twist in a bitter family fight between Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay. The pair are no longer beneficiaries of the trust that holds the family assets, having handed control to the younger generations of their family, with Sir David’s family holding a majority of the shares.

Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda brought legal proceedings against Sir David’s sons Aidan, Howard and Alistair, and his grandson Andrew, for allegedly bugging the Ritz hotel in an effort to listen in to conversations related to the family’s business dealings. The case remains before the courts.

Sir Frederick later made a rare public statement threatening to sue members of the family if the Ritz were to be sold for less than £1bn.

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The hotel, where a champagne afternoon tea for two people normally retails for £170, was put on the market last year. The hotel’s last set of accounts valued the property at £800m, but emphasised this was not based on any third-party assessment and was “solely the directors’ view” of the Ritz’s valuation.

A spokesperson for Ellerman investments, one of the vehicles behind the assets of the Barclay family, declined to comment on Friday night.

On Friday, the Ritz announced the hotel would be closing its doors because of the coronavirus outbreak, the first time the hotel would do so since opening in 1906.

The hospitality industry has been thrown into crisis by the outbreak, which has forced widespread closures with no certainty about when hotels will be able to reopen.

The acquisition of the Ritz potentially shifts attention to other assets of the Barclay family, including the Daily Telegraph, which has reportedly been looking for a buyer since the end of last year.

Other contenders to buy the building had included Sidra Capital, a Jeddah-based group that represents wealthy Saudi families, which had offered more than £600m, while the world’s largest luxury group LVMH had also looked at buying the property.

The hotel generated £47m of turnover in 2018, the latest figure available.


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