Stephen Glover on the Press

The Barclay brothers had better get used to being written about

When Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay acquired the Telegraph Group last June, they may have thought that they were safe from knocking articles in other titles. There used to be a convention amongst British newspaper proprietors that "dog did not attack dog". But times have changed, as the Barclay brothers soon found out. No sooner was the ink dry on their contract than The Times lobbed a few grenades in their direction. The paper had discovered a lost brother, Douglas, who allegedly went bankrupt with Frederick in 1960. It also suggested that a Japanese business associate of the Barclays was not as straight as he might have been.

When Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay acquired the Telegraph Group last June, they may have thought that they were safe from knocking articles in other titles. There used to be a convention amongst British newspaper proprietors that "dog did not attack dog". But times have changed, as the Barclay brothers soon found out. No sooner was the ink dry on their contract than The Times lobbed a few grenades in their direction. The paper had discovered a lost brother, Douglas, who allegedly went bankrupt with Frederick in 1960. It also suggested that a Japanese business associate of the Barclays was not as straight as he might have been.

The Barclays are sensitive souls, and they cannot have liked these articles, though none of the revelations was shocking. In early November The Times unleashed a second fusillade which, on the whole, was as ineffectual as the first. One 300-word article, headlined "Twins swoop on owners in difficulty", alleged that the Barclay brothers "often take advantage of owners in distress to pick up assets on the cheap". I would have thought that this is what successful businessmen are supposed to do, but the Barclays clearly take a different view. The brothers started criminal proceedings against The Times for alleged defamation, and a summons from a French court was served on the paper's editor, Robert Thomson, and its media editor, Dan Sabbagh, last week. It is highly unusual for press proprietors to take legal action against other newspapers. And no one in a similar position, other than the Barclays on a previous occasion, has used a French court. Their justification is that The Times sells a few thousand copies in France.

Mr Thomson reacted by remarking that "this is a sad day for British journalism". Many will agree with him. But the editor of The Times cannot reasonably paint himself merely as the unfortunate victim of the Barclays' paranoia. His paper did make a beeline for them. This could not have happened without the say-so of its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch. He never sues, and, as a general rule, he does not allow his papers to be used to mount attacks on other press proprietors. But for some reason he has made an exception in the case of the Barclays. Perhaps he genuinely believes that there are interesting aspects of the brothers' past that deserve to be aired. He may also think it will do The Times no harm if the owners of its rival, The Daily Telegraph, are held up to scrutiny.

All the same, the Barclays are unwise to sue. Their lawyers have wrung a number of corrections from various publications over the past year. Last June the London Evening Standard carried this item: "In an article last Wednesday we stated that Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay were both separated from their wives and children. This is incorrect. We apologise to them, their wives and their children". On 14 January this year the diary in the same paper made another correction: "On 26 November 2004 I reported that Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay would consider any serious offer to sell The Spectator. I now accept that my story was wrong and apologise to both gentlemen". The current issue of Private Eye carries the most arresting correction of all: "In an article published on page three of our issue of 28 November - 9 December 2004 we alleged that minders employed by Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick Barclay had recently brandished guns at an innocent holidaymaker sailing near the Barclays' Channel Island, Brecqhou. The Barclays deny that such an incident took place. We accept that no such incident involving guns took place. We regret the errors in the article".

Hmm. Even before their acquisition of the Telegraph Group the Barclays were no strangers to writs, and they have had previous recourse to the French courts. In 1996 they took legal action against The Observer and its reporter John Sweeney under French privacy laws, after he arrived uninvited on the island of Brecqhou. They claimed that their privacy had been infringed. They lost the action. In a related case they also sued Mr Sweeney, as well as the then director-general of the BBC, John Birt, in respect of comments made by Mr Sweeney on Radio Guernsey. They won on appeal in Rennes - as a result of which both Mr Sweeney and Mr Birt have criminal records in France.

The Barclay brothers, evidently, do not like being written about. But they are now owners of a great national newspaper, whose business it is to write about people. They may have hoped that their ownership of The Daily Telegraph would give them a kind of immunity, but the opposite is the case. They will not be able to stop articles being written about them. There will be books as well, doubtless more astringent that the authorised biography being penned by their friend, Alistair McAlpine, which seems not to be intended for anything as crude as publication. The more writs they issue, the greater will be the appetite in the media to run stories about them. And writs, of course, always attract attention to stories which otherwise might have gone unnoticed. My advice to them is to withdraw this action against The Times, and to stop using French courts against British newspapers, a course of action that is bound to attract criticism. Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay are now in the public eye, and they had better get used to it.

No FT sale? No way. No matter what Pearson says

Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson, has repeatedly said that the Financial Times is not for sale, but she may not be able to stand in the way. One fund manager at Franklin Templeton, which owns 12 per cent of Pearson, has backed a sale, as have other investors.

In the past, the paper has been a goldmine, making £56m as recently as 1999. But it has lost its way in recent years as costs have ballooned and advertising revenues slumped. In 2003 it made losses of £32m, which were reduced to £9m in 2004 after cost-cutting and some recovery in revenues. It may break even this year.

Most people think there are many more cost savings to be made. This explains why Terry Smith, chief executive of the stockbroker Collins Stewart Tullett, is sniffing around the title. Mr Smith was an early runner in the race for the Telegraph Group, but fell away when the price got too high.

There would certainly be other bidders if Ms Scardino felt obliged to sell. DMGT, publisher of the Daily Mail, would very likely be interested. So too would Rupert Murdoch's News International, though he would have to sell The Times under monopoly regulations. My money is strongly on a FT sale within 18 months.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100(More than you think)
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; Blackfriars; £25k

£25000 per annum + training: Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?