The Barclay Brothers fulfiled what is believed to be a 30-year ambition yesterday when they successfully concluded the pounds 75m purchase of the Ritz Hotel in London. The brothers' prestige hotel interests alreadyt include the Howard Hotel in London and the Mirabeau in Monaco, in addition to media and shipping interests.
In recent weeks the brothers, who have owned The European newspaper since the beginning of 1992, have also been linked with the bidding for The Scotsman, which has been put up for sale by its owners.
Frederick and David Barclay, whose businesses are all in private hands, are the most private of businessmen. They earned their first fortune by converting boarding houses in Bayswater into higher-grade hotels in the 1960s. Property dealers at heart, their wealth is now estimated at around pounds 500m.
Before buying Brechou, one of the Channel islands, the brothers lived in Monaco and liked to lunch together, unaccompanied, in the Cafe de Paris, near the Monte Carlo casino. They are hard to tell apart, except that one parts his hair on the right, the other on the left.
Their other interests include a shareholding in Chime, the holding company for Lowe Bell, the public relations company run by Baroness Thatcher's favourite media adviser, Sir Tim Bell. They also have a shareholding in London Club, which owns the leases to a number of London casinos.
The brothers are currently in the throes of building a Gothic castle which dominates the northern coastline of Brechou. Last week they made several ultimately unsuccessful attempts to prevent the transmission of a BBC television programme, the Spin, which involved filming on Brechou and questioned their excessive secrecy.
One of their friends said yesterday: "There is nothing sinister about them. They are modest men and they wish to remain private. All their businesses are private and they do not want or need publicity, glorification or deification."