Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich today accepted a formal apology and “substantial damages” at London’s High Court from an Italian newspaper that falsely suggested he had a serious gambling problem.
The Russian was able to sue the publishers of La Republica over an article from 3 May headed: “A black year for Abramaovich as he loses a yacht at poker” as the paper is available in the UK in certain newsagents and online.
Publishers Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso apologised in a brief hearing this morning before Justice David Eady and agreed to pay damages, which Abramovich will donate to charity.
John Kelly, Abramovich’s solicitor, told the hearing the report “alleged that Roman Abramovich had suffered a heavy loss in a poker game and had been forced to hand over a luxury yacht worth half a million Euros to cover his gambling debt”.
He said the story also alleged that Abramovich’s gambling had led to a crisis with his partner Dasha Zhukova, as well as claiming that the Russian had received a European farm subsidy of more than £486,000.
Kelly added: “Such claims are untrue. The article would have been understood to mean that he had such a serious gambling problem that he was not only jeopardising his relationship with his long term partner, Dasha Zhukova, who had been forced to issue him an ultimatum that he either give up playing poker or she would end their relationship, but he was also seriously risking his financial stability and had already been forced to liquidate assets in order to cover his heavy gambling debts.
“The publication of these damaging and untrue claims has caused Mr Abramovich distress and embarrassment and he could not allow them to go unchallenged.”
Sarah Toolan, for the publishers, added: “Through me, the defendant accepts everything that Mr Kelly has said, and offers its sincere apologies to Mr Abramovich for the distress and embarrassment this article has caused.
“The defendant accepts that the allegations are untrue and ought never to have been published.”