Barclay brothers: media-shy millionaires

The Barclay twins are something of a contradiction. For one thing, they shun the attention of the media, despite their ambitions to own a significant part of it. For another, they have never replicated their success in establishing and growing a property, retail and hotel empire in the newspaper business.

Some believe that they don't really understand how newspapers work. Nevertheless, few question their ability to act decisively and boldly in trying to achieve their goal of becoming an influential force in the UK newspaper industry.

The brothers' willingness to take on $140 million of Hollinger debt is evidence of this determination.

So far, their media story has been a tale of broken dreams - a relaunched European closed despite the Barclays pumping millions of pounds into it.

They fared little better with the Sunday Business, which accumulated losses of about £35 million.

Born humbly in Hammersmith, the brothers made their fortunes buying and selling property. Today, their formidable portfolio includes London's Ritz hotel, which has since been augmented by retail interests comprising Littlewoods and GUS, the shopping catalogue company that they bought last year for £590 million.

If the Hollinger deal goes through, the Channel Islands tax exiles will truly be high-profile media players. Whether they will relish such a prospect is another matter, however.