Billionaire sports tycoon Mike Ashley has claimed that his family’s safety was threatened after The Sun published revelations about him partying in a New York nightclub.
Ashley, who owns retailer Sports Direct and Newcastle United football club, is suing for privacy over a front page story headed: ‘Toon chief’s £125k binge’published last September.
Ashley is following in the footsteps of motorsport boss Max Mosley, who won damages after complaining his privacy had been invaded by the News of the World after it revealed that he took part in a sex session with five dominatrices.
According to a High Court writ, the story about Ashley ran on two inside pages, and was illustrated by three photos of Ashley, captioned: ‘Grog of the Tyneâ€¦ Ashley sips champagne like Cristal in New York nightclub”, and: ‘Bevvies and beautiesâ€¦ the Champagne-soaked Toon chief gave booze to gorgeous girl clubbers”.
He said he faced such hatred from Newcastle fans as a result of the story that he was warned it would be unsafe for him and his family to go to matches at the club, and that it would be best if he stayed away from the city of Newcastle altogether.
Ashley said the story, photos and a copy of his bar bill were published without his consent, and contained information over which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
This included the fact he had flown to New York in a private jet, had hosted a party at the Pink Elephant nightclub, why he had gone to the nightclub, with whom, what he did, how much he paid for drinks – including a bill showing a breakdown of drinks and their cost – and how much he had tipped waiters.
Ashley said in his writ that other facts which should have remained private were what he allegedly said about Kevin Keegan, what time he left the club and with whom, and where he stayed in New York.
Publication of this information amounted to a misuse of his private information and an intrusion into his private life, as well as interference with his human rights, the writ said.
Ashley added that the story caused him acute embarrassment and upset, and severely restricted his personal autonomy, and his ability to interact with others.
He is seeking aggravated damages, saying information he expected to remain private strayed into the public domain, and was then used as the basis for a highly critical story in the News of the World the following day.
He said the Sun did not warn him of its intention to publish the story, and knew that damages are ineffective, and that the only effective remedy was an injunction before the story appeared.
The newspaper’s decision not to tell him beforehand was a calculated decision intended to deprive him of his only effective remedy, the writ claimed.
Ashley is also seeking aggravated damages after the Sun wrote of gatecrashing the Sports Direct annual general meeting, asking how he could possibly justify ‘that sort of bar bill”, and whether his actions showed ‘utter contempt’for Newcastle fans.
He said the Sun has refused to give an undertaking not to republish the story at the centre of his legal action.
Now Ashley is seeking damages for misuse of private information, and an injunction banning the paper from repeating the allegations about him.