Outspoken commentator Sir Robert Jones said today he has sued an investment advisor for defamation because he had been accused of a serious commercial crime.
The 70-year-old property tycoon has taken Kāpiti Coast investment advisor Chris Lee to the High Court in Wellington for publishing an article stating Sir Robert’s public company paid 8 percent of its gross assets to his private company holding company as a management fee, but the fee was actually 8 percent of its gross income.
Sir Robert’s lawyer, Michael Reed QC, yesterday told the jury the article, published in City Life in 2007, wrongly suggested Sir Robert had inflated the investment company’s assets to increase the fee.
Sir Robert today told the court he had given Mr Lee the opportunity to apologise or retract his statement but he did not.
He said the “scurrilous” article effectively accused him of committing “one of the worst commercial crimes in our history”.
“He’s entitled to express an opinion but he overstated the truth by 1100 percent.
“When he slurs like he did about me, I’m going to do something about it”
The management contract that the article was referring to was between Sir Robert’s then publicly listed company, Robt Jones Investments Limited, and his private company, Robt Jones Holdings Limited. The public company paid the private company a fee each year in return for providing management services.
In Mr Lee’s article, he criticised a similar agreement proposed between the NZX and its chief executive, Mark Weldon, using the agreement between Sir Robert’s companies as an example of a management contract that was not in the interest of shareholders.
Mr Lee’s lawyer, Matthew McClelland, told the court his client had already written a correction and admitted there were errors in the article.
He had also apologised for an article he wrote in 2000 claiming Sir Robert was prosecuted for insider trading.
Mr McClelland said Sir Robert could expect to be criticised for his business decisions, as a prominent New Zealand commentator.
He said Mr Lee had written the article because of a desire to protect investors and shareholders in the company.
The case will resume tomorrow and is expected to be completed by Friday.
KCNews will update the case as it continues.no