Sir Frederick Barclay has avoided a prison sentence after after a high court judge gave him three months to pay money owed to his ex-wife.
However, the judge publicly rebuked Barclay, along with his nephews who run the Daily Telegraph, for failing to pay a penny of a £100m divorce settlement.
The former owner of the Ritz hotel could yet face a spell in prison. Mr Justice Cohen adjourned sentencing for three months on Thursday after Barclay paid the £245,000 in legal fees and delayed maintenance over which he was in found in contempt of court in July. But the entire court order and legal fees now amounting to more than £1m as well as further maintenance payments for his wife of 34 years, Hiroko Barclay, are still outstanding.
In an unusual rebuke, Cohen said: “It should be a matter a shame for Sir Frederick and his nephews that Lady Barclay is left with next to nothing by way of financial resources for the future … It seems to me extraordinary that every member of the family is prepared to put their hands into their pockets to help Sir Frederick avoid prison but will do nothing to help assist the greatest victim in this, namely Lady Barclay.”
Barclay’s lawyer Charles Howard QC told the court that the £245,000 had come via a loan from the couple’s only child, Amanda. Barclay’s nephews, Aidan, Howard and Alistair Barclay, the sons of his twin brother, David, have been paying his legal fees, which amount to £1.6m so far after his wife was forced to issue contempt proceedings for non-payment.
None of the £100m the judge ordered him to pay his ex-wife in May 2021 has been paid, while her legal team, headed by Lady Shackleton, have worked without pay for most of that time. Hearings for the judgment summons to enforce payment have so far added up to £700,000, the court heard.
Cohen said: “The debt will not go away and I expect Sir Frederick to engage personally with his nephews to find a way through this.”
Stewart Leech QC, counsel for Lady Barclay, had urged the judge to issue a suspended prison sentence. “The pattern throughout this long trial is that [Barclay] ignores orders until his feet are pressed against the fire, at which point he does the minimum. There is a real public interest that men in Sir Frederick Barclay’s position, captains of industry, media moguls, knights of the realm, like anyone else in this country, ignore court orders at their peril.”
Ignoring court orders can result in a prison sentence of six weeks.
Barclay has argued that he cannot access his fortune as it is all held in trust for his daughter and nephews.
Howard said: “My client has no money and Amanda has made it clear she won’t pay more.”
The judge said he expected Barclary to hold meetings with his nephews rather than using a solicitor as an intermediary. “I want to hear of real progress of the big fish in all this, namely the payment of the £100m lump sum, so for those reasons I’ve decided to adjourn sentence.”