The Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has settled his libel claim against the journalist Catherine Belton over her best-selling book Putin’s People, after an agreement was reached late on Tuesday.
The text will now recognise that the allegation Abramovich bought Chelsea football club at the Russian president’s behest is not a statement of fact. It will include additional denials from the oligarch’s spokesperson and the club.
It will also correct a claim that the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky co-owned the Russian oil company Sibneft with Abramovich. The amendment follows a 2011-12 high court legal battle between the two men, which Abramovich won. The book’s publisher, HarperCollins, has agreed to make a payment to charity “in recognition of this error”, it said.
Abramovich sued over a number of claims, including that he bought Chelsea on Vladimir Putin’s orders. He was one of three Russian tycoons who initiated libel proceedings against Belton and HarperCollins, together with the Russian state oil company Rosneft.
The other defendants subsequently settled or withdrew their claims. Abramovich ended his case after HarperCollins said on Wednesday some information concerning
the oligarch was inaccurate. It agreed to make revisions to the book, widely acclaimed as the definitive work on the Putin era.
HarperCollins hailed the overnight settlement as a fair agreement. There are no damages being paid to Abramovich himself. Both sides will pay their own costs. Had the libel trial gone ahead in the high court next year the legal bill was likely to have exceeded £10m, it is understood.
The publisher said: “While the book always included a denial that Mr Abramovich was acting under anybody’s direction when he purchased Chelsea, the new edition will include a more detailed explanation of Mr Abramovich’s motivations for buying the club.
“HarperCollins has also made clear in the book that there is no evidence, beyond the statements of the individuals themselves, supporting claims made to the author by [the former Kremlin insider] Sergei Pugachev and two other unnamed individuals about the purchase of Chelsea Football Club.”
HarperCollins acknowledged that a high court judge described Berezovsky as an “inherently unreliable witness”. It added: “HarperCollins and the author apologise that these aspects of the book were not as clear as they would have liked them to have been and are happy to have now clarified the text.” (Guardian)