Associated Newspapers is to pay £20,000 damages plus legal costs to Chelsea Football Club and its former chief executive over claims the soccer boss acted unprofessionally over the departure of a colleague.
Peter Kenyon and the club brought a defamation action against the publishing company after publication of a piece by Daily Mail columnist Charles Sale headlined “Smith to drag up Chelsea Cat Fight” in September last year.
Sitting at the High Court yesterday Justice Eady was told that the article made a number of ‘serious and defamatory allegations’amongst which was a false claim that Kenyon had acted in an unprofessional manner.
Representing the club and its former boss, Hugh Tomlinson QC told the court: “It was said that he [Kenyon] had allowed a decision to dismiss Paul Smith, Chelsea’s business affairs director, to be influenced by a catfight between their respective girlfriends.
“The defendant [Mail] went on to claim that Chelsea had falsely presented its decision to dismiss an important senior executive of Chelsea as being management restructuring when, in fact, the true reason was an obviously trivial and commercially irrelevant personal dispute between Asha Lakhani, the business director’s girlfriend, and Louise Quinn, the girlfriend of Peter Kenyon.”
The court was told that the Mail’s claim was untrue and that Smith was dismissed because of a management restructure not because of a petty dispute.
Publication of the article had caused “considerable distress to Peter Kenyon and harm to Chelsea”, Tomlinson said.
He added: “It falsely suggested that Mr Kenyon allowed a trivial personal dispute to influence his judgement as chief executive.”
The pre-trial settlement saw Associated Newspapers, which was not represented in court, pay costs and damages and agree not to repeat the allegations.