Jennings vs Fairfax

The Herald reports:

New Zealand-born businessman and rich-lister Stephen Jennings has launched defamation action against Fairfax Media and a senior journalist.

Jennings, estimated to be worth around $950 million according to the National Business Review, was once seen as the country’s richest man. …

In March, Fairfax Media – which owns and a string of newspapers around New Zealand – published a story written by senior journalist Michael Field about Jennings’ business activities in Russia and Kenya.

Around a week later Fairfax published a retraction and apology which said the article “may have been interpreted as implying that Mr Jennings’ business activities in those countries were unethical and open to criticism”.

“It also implied that Mr Jennings was a business rival to Bill Browder, a well known American businessman, and wanted to destroy him. accepts that none of these statements or implications have any factual basis or legitimacy,” the retraction said.

“No attempt was made to contact Mr Jennings prior to publication, and we accept that had we done so, the article would not have contained those statements or implications.”

I recall at the time thinking this was the most grovelling retraction I’d seen. They must have realised how badly they had stuffed up.

If it proceeds to court, it will be an interesting case. It could cost Fairfax a lot of money, but they tend to have defamation insurance, so in fact their insurer is the one who ends up getting pinged.

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