Brothers really put on the Ritz

October 07, 1995|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- How much does ritzy cost? Try about $900,000 a room.

That was the going rate paid by the reclusive Barclay twins, who agreed to a $116 million deal yesterday to buy one of the world's most famous hotels, the Ritz of London.

The deal was done through the millionaire brothers' Ellerman Investments and an affiliated company.

The five-star hotel was on and off the market for several years, but Trafalgar House apparently was in no rush to sell. Last year, the Ritz posted a profit of nearly $6.2 million. The sale should be completed by early November said a spokesman for the Trafalgar House conglomerate that has interests ranging from engineering to property to the QE II.

Since its opening in May 1906 by Swiss-born hotelier Cesar Ritz, the hotel has lured the rich and famous to its spot on Piccadilly at the entrance to Green Park.

The Ritz was the first major steel-framed building in London. On opening day, a double room with private bath cost 30 shillings a night -- about $7.50. Today, the lowest priced double room goes for $310 a night.

To many Americans, the hotel is perhaps even more famous as a place to take tea, as women in designer outfits and men in suits sip tea from porcelain cups and select from an array of cakes from silver platters.

The hotel's grand ballroom was converted in recent years to a highly successful casino.

David and Frederick Barclay, 61-year-old identical twins, own a string of stylish hotels and publish The European, a newspaper founded by the late Robert Maxwell. Their business style is to buy up undervalued companies and sell off the parts that don't fit their primary interests in hotels, brewing and leisure.

Recently, Business Age magazine estimated the brothers' combined fortune at more than $600 million, but added "because of the structure and private nature of their companies, it's difficult to fix a value on the wealth of the two brothers." The brothers' interests are controlled in a series of holding companies, based in Monaco, with another primary holding company in Bermuda.

The magazine said that Frederick, who is older, "prefers immersing himself in the nuts and bolts of policy, leaving strategy to his marginally more flamboyant sibling."

The brothers' are so secretive that only two pictures of them are said to exist.

In their quest for privacy, they bought their own island last year, a 160-acre Channel Island, Brecqhou. It is reported they are building a $62 million mock Gothic castle there.

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