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Bob Jones cherry-picked article and ‘simply wasn’t defamed’, court told
by Paul McBeth

May 12 (BusinessWire) – Sir Robert Jones, the property magnate and some-time political party leader, cherry-picked a 2007 article written by financial adviser Chris Lee and "simply wasn't defamed," the High Court in Wellington was told today.

Outlining Lee's defence, lawyer Matthew McClelland told the court that his client's CityLife newspaper article only mentioned Jones twice in "some 22 or so paragraphs" and dealt with more issues than just Jones' management contract with Robert Jones Investments Ltd. in the 1980s.

McClelland told the jury Jones' evidence yesterday showed there was "no evidence of any tenants shunning him" and that it had been "business as usual" since the 2007 article.

"You can't just, as Sir Robert has done, cherry-pick three or four paragraphs," McClelland told the jury. "There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that his business has been affected in any way by what was written, and the reason for that is quite simple, and that is because he simply wasn't defamed."

McClelland denied the article's reference to Jones as a "rich old man" was a criticism, saying it was "simply stating a fact, and there is no debate about that."

Lee's lawyer said his client had previously worked as a journalist before becoming a stockbroker, and now had about 8,000 customers and investments of some $600 million.

From the outset of his new career he endeavoured to write newsletters in "strong, forthright language" so that "whoever reads it, irrespective of how complex the issue, people can understand it," McClelland said.

Following the collapse of Robert Jones Investments' share price by 1992, McClelland said Lee's article was "well-informed and with the clear benefit of hindsight."

McClelland said Lee acknowledged his mistake in the original article when he referred to gross assets instead of income, but that didn't lessen his opinion that Jones' contract was "ridiculous and absurd."

The case is continuing.

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