The secretive world of British billionaire twins Frederick and David Barclay started to unravel with a hidden camera, and a discrete taping system.

In a video released by Frederick this week, one of David’s sons, Alistair Barclay, is allegedly shown hiding a listening device in the conservatory of the Ritz Hotel to capture private discussions between Frederick and his daughter, Amanda, who were negotiating the sale of the historic hotel near Buckingham Palace. But Frederick was worried that someone had been listening to their conversations, and got hotel security to install a hidden camera that captured the footage.

The brothers, who spent decades avoiding media attention by isolating themselves on an island in the middle of the English Channel, are now front-page news due to the latest part of the family’s multi-generational legal dispute over the sale of the Ritz. They handed the family business to the next generation, but Frederick’s lawyers told a London court that David’s three sons are freezing out his daughter, Amanda. The case offers a glimpse of the divisions in one of the country’s richest clans, which owns the Daily Telegraph newspaper and other businesses at the heart of the U.K. establishment.

“Unfortunately this is a classic example of how family enterprises self-destruct," said Irina Curbelo, co-founder of family business consulting firm Percheron Advisory. “The Barclays need to remember that 60% of family business failure is because of a lack of open communication and trust. Without rebuilding this, all their businesses, a large part of the family wealth, and the family bonds themselves, will be gone.”

Hefin Rees, Frederick and Amanda’s lawyer, told a London court at a preliminary hearing earlier this month that the factions’ interests were already “in conflict.” By listening in, the cousins were able to anticipate Frederick and Amanda’s “every move in advance, plan their business strategy around that” including legal advice they were getting “at this crucial time when their business and personal relationships had broken down,” the attorney said.

“He is a man who is now left to contemplate his nephews’ betrayal and a father who has witnessed the prejudicial treatment of his daughter by her cousins,” Rees told the court, arguing that “this was commercial espionage on a vast scale.”

While the case has been winding its way through the London courts since Frederick and Amanda sued David’s three sons, Alistair, Aidan and Howard, and Aidan’s son Andrew in January, the CCTV footage has given it a new prominence. 

Alistair, casual in his Harvard sweatshirt, is seen allegedly searching for a place for an electric plug adapter which is said to hold the bug. He leans down and allegedly plugs it in next to a cream-colored chair where Frederick would frequently sit to smoke a cigar while talking business with Amanda, who would take her place on the flower-print sofa. Alistair appears to look directly at the camera before walking over to touch it. 

The recording device captured 94 hours of audio recordings and 1,000 separate conversations over several months, including Frederick and Amanda’s private conversations with their lawyers, trustees, bankers and businesspeople, as well as negotiations with prospective buyers of the Ritz, the pair’s lawyers said in court filings.

The family was already divided over the sale of the five-star hotel, which the identical twins bought for 75 million pounds ($92 million) in 1995.

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