Aggressive expansion by the Barclay brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph and London’s Ritz hotel, has left them owning around a fifth of the island of Sark, sparking fears on the island that the publicity-shy billionaire twins are acquiring a dominant stake in its economy.
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay have invested millions this year to buy up land in the island’s commercial heart, including three of its six hotels.
They have launched a programme to improve their properties, starting work on a five-star hotel with a golf course, refurbishing a restaurant and upgrading shops. This has created jobs for more than 50 of the island’s 600 residents.
But opponents fear they will turn the tiny island into an upmarket resort for the wealthy, Such critics, fearing fear they want to doing away with its feudal constitution and traditions that include a ban on motor cars.
The Barclays have also angered many residents by continuing their long-running campaign against Sark’s government.
Reg Guille, the Seneschal who is the island’s judge and presides over its parliament, claimed the Barclays were “effectively buying Sark”, challenging its way of life.
But Sir David said they were investing “to make a difference to the future economy on Sark, while preserving its unique beauty and tranquillity”.
This has been welcomed by some, including John Donnelly, a landowner a member of Chief Pleas, Sark’s parliament. He supported what the Barclays were doing to modernise the island’s tourist facilities.
“There will always be a fear of the unknown, a fear of change,” he said.