Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay may be super-rich proprietors who enjoy a life of secluded luxury, but their fortune is undoubtedly self-made.
Born 10 minutes apart in 1934 of Scottish Catholic parents, they grew up in an unsalubrious part of Shepherds Bush, west London. After leaving school early, the brothers worked as painters and decorators before becoming estate agents.
It wasn't until the 1990s that they moved into newspapers, buying the Scotsman, the European and Sunday Business.
The European, which was previously owned by Robert Maxwell, closed down at a cost of millions, while the other papers have experienced circulation difficulties.
Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, who works as the Barclays' publisher, could now be in line for a post at the Telegraph, though some sources believe he is unlikely to be given a hands-on management role.
In 2000 the Barclays also had a go at buying the Express titles but were beaten by Richard Desmond, who arranged his own private £125m deal with the then proprietor, Clive Hollick.
The Barclays had agreed to buy out Lord Black's controlling stake in Hollinger, circumventing the auction launched by the Telegraph's immediate owner, Hollinger International.
At a stroke it seemed as if they had pulled off a stunning coup to outwit all their rivals for the Telegraph, including the likes of Desmond and the Daily Mail & General Trust.
But the matter went to court, and Lord Black's attempt to offload his stake was thwarted, leaving the Barclays to join the queue with the other bidders.
As part of the February judgment, Delaware judge Leo Strine accused the Barclays of being "less than fully candid" and said they had "remained silent while Lord Black misled the [Hollinger] International board", remarks that incurred the brothers' wrath, with Sir David branding the criticisms "grossly unfair".
The judge also cast doubt over Sir David's claim that he was too ill to travel to give evidence in the case. This was, said Sir David, "particularly regrettable", as the medical evidence before the court was not challenged by Hollinger International.
The Barclays were not about to give up, though, and hung in for nearly four months after the Delaware setback, as rivals fell by the wayside.
Finally today they learned they had seen off the last remaining bidder, the private equity partnership of 3i and Veronis Suhler Stevenson.
The Barclays are often called "reclusive", though people close to them insist they are gregarious and personable, and merely protective of their privacy.
They live on their own island in the Channel, Brecqhou, where the architect Quinlan Terry built them their own mock-Gothic castle with 3ft-thick granite walls, battlements, two swimming pools and a helicopter pad.
The £60m home allows them to live as tax exiles, and the brothers give their address as c/o Avenue de Grande Bretagne, Monte Carlo.
While they don't tend to rub shoulders with their Channel island neighbours on Sark, they did take the trouble to get the island's 400-year-old inheritance laws changed for the benefit of their children.
They argued successfully that a local law forbidding women from inheriting land if there were male heirs contravened human rights.
The most high profile of the brothers' four children is Sir David's son, Aidan, who acts as an envoy for his father and uncle and as a kind of chief operating officer for their businesses.
He is charged with sorting out their recent acquisitions the Littlewoods retail chain and the GUS mail order business, and will now have another major issue on his plate with the purchase of the Telegraph.
Whether radical change is on the menu is yet to be seen, though some sources close to the Barclays predict they will take things steadily.
As natural conservatives, they are highly unlikely to change its political allegiance or its opposition to the European single currency.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Who are the Barclay brothers? | Media | MediaGuardian