A judge overseeing a High Court fight over money between retired businessman Sir Frederick Barclay and his ex-wife has said he does not know why the dispute has not “concluded” in some “consensual way”.
Sir Jonathan Cohen said he wants 88-year-old Sir Frederick and Lady Hiroko Barclay, 80, to reach “some sort of consensual agreement”.
He aired his thoughts on Tuesday during the latest in a series of hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
In May 2021 the judge ordered Sir Frederick to hand Lady Hiroko lump sums totalling £100 million following the breakdown of their 34-year marriage.
Sir Jonathan, who has heard that the money has yet to be paid, said then that Sir Frederick had behaved in a “reprehensible” fashion during the litigation.
Lady Hiroko, who petitioned for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, has complained that Sir Frederick has not paid her as ordered – and alleged that he is in contempt of court.
“Nothing would be better for everyone than if they didn’t have to come back,” said Sir Jonathan.
“I don’t know why this matter has not been able to be concluded in some form of consensual way.”
Sir Frederick and his twin brother, Sir David, were among the UK’s most high-profile businessmen.
Sir David died in January 2021, aged 86.
Their interests included the Telegraph Media Group and The Ritz hotel in London.
The family also has links to the Channel Islands and Monaco.
Sir Jonathan has been told that Sir David’s sons, Aidan and Howard Barclay, now have day-to-day responsibility for “group business”.
The brothers could give evidence about Sir Frederick’s means at a future hearing in the case.
The judge said Sir Frederick has alleged he has been unable to pay Lady Hiroko because his nephews “hold the purse strings”.
He said Sir Frederick has argued that a trust which could provide him with money is being “starved” of “funds from the family business”.
Lawyers representing Aidan and Howard Barclay on Tuesday asked Sir Jonathan to “set aside” orders he has issued requiring their attendance at court.
They questioned whether Sir Jonathan has the power to make such orders.
Sir Jonathan refused to cancel the orders, saying: “I think their attendance is going to be essential.
“I don’t think there is any way these proceedings are properly to be determined … without their attendance.”
He added: “That is the position Sir Frederick has put them in.”
The judge told lawyers representing the pair: “I don’t want to see your clients in the witness box. I want to see Sir Frederick and Lady Barclay come to some sort of consensual agreement they can live with.”
He is due to oversee a further hearing on May 16.
Barrister James Roberts KC, who is leading Aidan and Howard Barclay’s legal team, raised concerns about private information being made public if the two businessmen give evidence in open court.
“Members of the press have been in attendance throughout and the proceedings between (Sir Frederick) and (Lady Hiroko) have been widely reported,” he told Sir Jonathan in a written argument.
“To compel Howard Barclay and Aidan Barclay to give witness evidence … would be to compel them to give evidence in open court.
“It is likely that they will be examined or sought to be examined about matters that stray into their own private and confidential arrangements.”
He said the two men are not “parties” to the proceedings and argued that their human rights should be protected.
Mr Roberts added: “The court at various stages in the proceedings has recognised and protected with appropriate orders information confidential to the Barclay family.”
The judge ruled in July that Sir Frederick was in contempt as a result of failing to pay about £245,000 he owed his ex-wife for legal fees and maintenance.
A barrister representing Lady Hiroko told the judge, at a follow-up hearing in August, that the £245,000 had been paid.
But Stewart Leech KC said Sir Frederick remains “massively in default”.