The High Court has handed victory to RPC after it ruled that Associated Newspapers (AN) did not defame billionaire investor Nathaniel Rothschild, which he claimed had portrayed him as a “puppet master” of former Labour minister Peter Mandelson.
Rothschild instructed Schillings partner Rod Christie Miller to pursue the AN-owned Daily Mail for damages following a report that a trip he made with Lord Mandelson, the then EU trade commissioner – was “one of the games Rothschild played to impress [Oleg] Deripaska”.
Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC, instructed for Rothschild, told Mr Justice Tugendhat at the High Court last month that the article made “serious defamatory allegations”.
The newspaper published a story in May 2010 over a trip Rothschild had organised with the alleged aim of introducing him to Deripaska and discussing a £500m aluminium deal.
RPC partner Jaron Lewis instructed One Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC for Associated Newspapers. In December the newspaper amended its case, accepting that it could not prove that Mandelson attended a dinner close to the major aluminium deal, however, it maintained it could defend the claim.
In his judgment Tugendhat accepted that the newspaper had published words that were defamatory of Rothschild but said the main issue was whether the meaning of the words published were true.
He found there were “reasonable grounds for suspecting that Rothschild had done what he did so that Lord Mandelson would engage, and that Lord Mandelson had engaged, in improper discussion with the representatives of Rusal and Alcoa about tariffs on aluminium imports from Russia into the EU.”
He continued that Rothschild had not been “entirely candid” in his case.
“I have found,” he ruled, “Mr Rothschild’s conduct was inappropriate in a number of respects. […] In my judgment that conduct foreseeably brought Lord Mandelson’s public office and personal integrity into disrepute and exposed him to accusations of conflict of interest, and it gave rise to the reasonable grounds to suspect that Lord Mandelson had engaged in improper discussions with Mr Deripaska about aluminium.”
Legal line up:
For the claimant, Nathaniel Rothschild:
Schillings partner Rod Christie Miller and senior associate Allan Dunlavy instructed Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC and 5RB’s Justin Rushbrooke.
For the defendant, Associated Newspapers:
RPC partner Jaron Lewis and senior associate Brid Jordan instructed One Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC and David Glen of the same set.