Billionaire racehorse owner gets a 'grovelling' apology

By Dominic Ponsford

The Racing Post has issued an abject apology to billionaire and
racehorse owner the Aga Khan, days after publishing an unflattering
profile of him.

A former Racing Post journalist called it “grovelling” and “amazing”
and said: “If the article offended all the Muslim racehorse owners
(including the influential Makhtoums) then it would be potentially
disastrous financially, as the Maktoums’ various bloodstock operations
and stud farms are big advertisers.”

The offending article – “The
Real Aga Khan”, by Peter Thomas – appeared on 27 September and was
supposed to begin a new series “profiling racing’s most fascinating
characters”.

The light-hearted article drew unflattering
parallels between the Khan’s role as spiritual leader of 20 million
Ismaili Muslims and a jet-setting lifestyle fuelled by a £6bn fortune.

The 1,500-word feature also dealt with the Khan’s various marriages and with two drug-test failures for his horses.

The
Racing Post published its apology eight days later, a day after the Aga
Khan was given the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy at the
Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. According to one source, editorial
director Brough Scott ordered the apology.

Running to 280 words,
it said: “Even before we began to receive objections from our readers,
we realised that the article was in the letter, tone and spirit
misguided, and, in essence, offensive to the Aga Khan, to the Ismaili
community which he leads, and to Muslims generally.

We should never have allowed it to be published.

“The
article was conceived to be an informal, slightly humorous sketch of a
man who is widely known and esteemed in the world of thoroughbred
racing and breeding. Unfortunately, in its execution, it crossed
boundaries this newspaper has always tried to respect by replacing fact
with innuendo and derision about the man himself and his religion.

“We
recognise that statements we made concerning the public life of the Aga
Khan, as Imam to his community, and his private life, had not been
verified at any stage by the Aga Khan or anyone qualified to verify
them, and were not sufficiently researched.

“This resulted in the
article presenting a largely myopic view of his role as religious and
temporal leader to millions of his followers, and was therefore hurtful
to them as well as him.”

The paper condemned the article as “wholly inaccurate and offensive” and removed it from its website.

A
Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “The Racing Post’s senior editorial team
quickly realised the piece was misguided and should not have been
published.

They moved very swiftly to make the apology, which was
agreed by Racing Post editorial director Brough Scott and editor Chris
Smith.”

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