Mike Ashley gets Times apology over ‘protected’ phone recording claims

A newspaper publisher has apologized to billionaire businessman Mike Ashley and agreed to pay him damages over ‘false’ claims that his phone records were ‘protected’ during a battle in front the High Court.

The former Newcastle United owner has launched libel proceedings against Times Newspapers following front-page coverage of its investigation into the activities of mobile phone company Sport Mobile.

The High Court in London was told on Wednesday that the publisher of The Times issued an apology and retracted a series of print and online articles on July 17 and 18, 2020.

Adam Speker QC, representing Mr Ashley, the Frasers group chief executive, said the stories were headlined ”Fixed’ stars’ phone records”, ‘How co-owner tries to exploit Ashley’s court case’ and “Two arrested in ‘Case phone repair'”.

He told the court that Times Newspapers reported “as part of an investigation into the activities of mobile phone company Sport Mobile” that “its founder claimed his company had ‘protected’ Mike Ashley’s phone records”. in the context of 2017 High Court proceedings involving Mr Ashley and investment banker Jeffrey Blue.

Jeffrey Blue (Nick Ansell/PA)

Mr Speker added: ‘Following defamation proceedings brought by Mr Ashley, the court found that the articles were defamatory of him.

“The court found that in the articles it was alleged that there was reason to suspect that Sport Mobile had helped Mr Ashley to avoid disclosure in High Court proceedings of text messages and potentially relevant phone records, which Mr Ashley had told the court he could not. produce while knowing that Sport Mobile could in fact have obtained them.

Mr Speker told the hearing, before Judge Jaron Lewis, that the publisher ‘confirmed that he had no intention of making these claims’, adding: ‘He made a formal offer of redress which was accepted by Mr. Ashley.

“He has issued an apology and retraction and has agreed to pay Mr. Ashley substantial damages and legal costs.”

He added that the publisher “through its apology published in the print edition of The Times and online, has accepted that all allegations of wrongdoing by Mr. Ashley in his litigation with Jeffrey Blue are false.”

Emily Costello, representing the publisher, told the court: “Times Newspapers Limited did not intend to make the claims which the court found valid for the articles.

“He accepts that the allegations are false and withdraws them and apologizes to Mr. Ashley.”

Mr Ashley said in a statement published by Frasers Group: ‘The false allegations of wrongdoing against me were published without restriction on the front page of The Times but did not contain a shred of truth.

“It was shameful and irresponsible cartoon journalism.”

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