Barclays’ high court victory over Irish property tycoon Patrick McKillen opens window on to business dealings of powerful
The billionaire Barclay brothers have won their high court battle over the future of three of London’s most prestigious hotels.
Irish property tycoon Patrick McKillen sued the reclusive twins, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, claiming they had illegally bought a controlling stake he was entitled to in the Berkeley, Connaught and Claridge’s hotels.
But a judge rejected the claim in a case that has provided a rare insight into the dealings of some of the most powerful businessmen in the country.
The court heard how McKillen, who owns 35% of Coroin, the hotels group, tried to take overall control by approaching various creditors and used former prime minister Tony Blair to act as an “honest broker” to set up a meeting with the Qatari royal family to secure funding for a bid.
He claimed the funding had been in place when the Barclays, also owners of the Ritz and the Telegraph newspapers, jumped in to take overall control of the hotels by buying the debts owed by the third of the three shareholders in the group, Derek Quinlan.
Quinlan, a member of the original consortium, had lost a fortune in the Irish property market collapse and had his debts controlled by Ireland’s “bad bank”, the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).
McKillen claimed that a pre-emption clause meant he should have had first refusal to buy the stakes of any other investors in the hotels that came up for sale. But Mr Justice David Richards said the clause had not been breached.
The judge added he did not believe McKillen had the funds in place to make an offer, despite Tony Blair Associates’ attempts to set up meetings with possible funders in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.
The court heard how Blair set up meetings with the son of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad, but the deal never went ahead after McKillen called the Middle Eastern leader “scum” for changing the terms of their agreement.
Witness statements paint a picture of septuagenarian twins with fading memories and loose control over their family interests, who are happy to sign paperwork they do not read or do not understand.
Sir Frederick wrote in his statement: “My memory is not what it once was (and, in any event, I have never been very good at dates).”
A spokesman for the Barclay brothers said the judgment “vindicated the Barclay interests’ position”.
A spokeswoman for McKillen said while he “might have lost this battle he was actually in a better position to win the war. The Barclay Brothers have not achieved their stated objective. We still have the right to purchase Quinlan’s interest … at a later date should it become available”.