Abramovich to answer Berezovsky coercion claims in court

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich must answer allegations that he used coercive tactics to force former business partner Boris Berezovsky to sell his assets at an undervalued market price, the High Court ruled today.

Addleshaw Goddard partner Mark Hastings instructed One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC for Berezovsky.

Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom partner Paul Mitchard QC instructed Brick Courts’ Andrew Popplewell QC to apply to the High Court for strike out on behalf of Abramovich (pictured).

The ruling will pave the way for a major High Court showdown between the two oligarchs to take place over the 12-week long Michaelmas term next year.

In July 2005 Berezovksy announced his intention to sue Abramovich through London’s High Court for breach of trust, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary claims.

It was another two years before he personally served the writ on Abramovich during a scuffle in Sloane Sqaure.

At the heart of Berezovsky’s claim is the allegation that Abramovich coerced him into selling his 21.5 per cent stake in Russian oil company Sibneft for a significantly reduced price.

Popplewell told Mr Justice Colman that Berezovsky’s claim lacked detail: “We want to know where the oral threats were made so that witnesses could be called.”

He continued: “This is a case that cries out for a summary judgment or strike out.”

Colman J rejected the argument: “I am satisfied that it is impossible to say that this claim has no real prospect of success…

“Weak as some of BB’s case certainly appear the complexity and multiplicity of issues makes this exactly the kind of claim which is unsuitable for applications under CPR3.4.”

Permission to appeal was refused.

For more information see the litigation blog.