Brothers have reputation for taking risks with deals

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The Independent Online

The Barclay twins are no strangers to pulling off daring deals with controversial tycoons who find themselves in trouble, or taking massive business risks with acquisitions.

In 1994, Sir David and Sir Frederick bought a car dealership for a reported £200m from a fugitive tycoon. Octav Botnar, a prominent figure in the motor industry, fled to Switzerland in 1991, after he was accused by the Inland Revenue of taking part in a £97m tax fraud.

Mr Botnar had pioneered the import of Japanese cars to the UK and ended up running the Nissan franchise in the UK. He convinced the car-maker to set up the first Japanese assembly plant in Britain.

His AFG garage chain had 73 showrooms and was the most valuable dealership in Europe, but Nissan terminated the exclusive distribution agreement that Mr Botnar enjoyed in 1991. Later that year, the Inland Revenue swooped on his business. A year later, Mr Botnar skipped the country.

It was then, with Mr Botnar a forced seller, that the Barclays struck, pulling off a deal with Mr Botnar in 1994 which would allow the 84-year-old to cut his ties with Britain and retire peacefully to the shores of Lake Geneva.

Today the Barclays are waiting to hear the outcome of another business gamble. Last year, the twins agreed to buy, unconditionally, the mail order business of GUS for £590m, although they already owned one large catalogue business, Littlewoods. The Competition Commission is due to rule in the next few days whether the Barclays will be forced to sell the GUS business, leaving the brothers nursing a large loss.