'Be a gent, John, or we'll see you in court'

Sullivan: Scallywag shareholder

Sport Newspapers boss David Sullivan has urged John Major to "do the gentlemanly thing" and refund the estimated £50,000 in costs and damages paid by Scallywag, the magazine he sued over claims he had an affair with Downing Street caterer Clare Latimer.

Sullivan said he was also "particularly aggrieved" that Major was in power when the publisher’s bid for Bristol Evening Post group was blocked because he was deemed to be an unfit person to own the papers.

Sullivan was a major shareholder in Scallywag, which closed following the legal action. He said his solicitors had written to Major this week asking him to return the money and make a donation to a charity of Sullivan’s choice.

He told Press Gazette: "We are not being vindictive. We are saying, ‘Look, you should never have sued over this, it caused the magazine to shut down, so do the gentlemanly thing and that will be the end of the matter’."

"Scallywag would never have settled with him had we known he was a person of bad character. He sued as a married man of impeccable character. It now turns out he had been having an adulterous affair for four years." "So we’re just saying, ‘Do the right thing and return the money to a charity of our choice. Otherwise we’ll embarrass you by court action.’" The New Statesman is consulting lawyers over reclaiming £1,001 in damages, plus legal costs, incurred after it was sued after reporting gossip about Major and Latimer.

Editor Peter Wilby said the magazine’s lawyers believed their case to be "very strong indeed". Although the damages, which were paid into court, were very small, he said the legal costs and sums paid out on behalf of printers and distributors were considerable.

"There is no doubt that had the revelations been known at the time, Major would not have taken the legal action. There was a period after this case between 1993 and1996 that the New Statesman did not really have any money."

By Ruth Addicott

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