Leading article

Sir David Barclay, 1934-2021

16 January 2021

9:00 AM

16 January 2021

9:00 AM

When Sir David Barclay, along with his twin brother Sir Frederick, bought The Spectator in 2004, the magazine came as a side dish with their purchase of the Daily Telegraph. Under their ownership, that quickly changed. The Spectator (1828) became a separate company with no financial cross-entanglements.

The Barclay method was to apply the three most valuable commodities any publication could ask for: patience, investment and editorial independence. We will leave readers to judge whether the magazine has improved under their ownership. But our sales have almost doubled, in a market that has more than halved, and we have had the resources to embrace the digital age with relish. Sir David’s opinions — and those of the rest of his family — on the politics of the day were a mystery, even to the editor of this magazine. No hints were dropped, no editorial favours asked.

In the history of proprietorship, this is unusual, even unique. The only remit passed down was that The Spectator, the world’s oldest magazine, was at its best when serving its readers, and no one else. When Sir David died last week after a short illness, he left an extraordinary business empire, built with his brother, and will also be remembered for the philanthropy for which they were both knighted in 2000. The independence and success of this magazine is part of his legacy.

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