Roman Abramovich has received an apology from HarperCollins over its publication of claims that he bought Chelsea on the orders of Vladimir Putin.
The company has agreed to amend certain passages in a book, Putin’s People, by Catherine Belton, and to make a charitable donation in lieu of damages, settling a libel case brought by the Russian businessman.
It comes after a High Court ruling in the case last month that the book about the Russian president and his associates made nine defamatory statements about Mr Abramovich.
The book included Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev’s claim that Mr Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003 at Mr Putin’s command.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Chelsea owner welcomed the apology and removal of “several false claims about him” from the book, with amendments “resulting in the deletion or addition of over 1,700 words” being agreed.
“As Mr Abramovich stated when issuing his claim earlier this year, its sole purpose was to refute the false allegations published regarding his name and have them corrected, including the false statements made about the nature of the purchase and activities of Chelsea Football Club,” the spokesperson said
“In contrast to events relayed in the book, Mr Abramovich’s ambition with Chelsea Football Club has always been clear and transparent: to create world-class teams on the pitch and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all of its communities.
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“HarperCollins should be, and now have been, held to reasonable publishing standards and have ample financial resources to withstand a well-founded legal claim that seeks to correct the record.
“As the objectives of this legal claim have never been punitive, we have not asked for any damages to be paid.
“We have, however, asked that HarperCollins makes a donation in lieu of damages to a charitable organisation, to which they have agreed.”
Mr Pugachev had claimed in the High Court in 2018 that Mr Putin had ordered Mr Abramovich to purchase Chelsea.
The witness statements, made as part of Mr Pugachev’s dispute with a bank, were described as “self-serving” and “impossible to believe” by a judge.
He went on to lose the High Court case, but his allegations about Mr Abramovich and Chelsea were repeated in interviews for the 2020 book Putin’s People.
“HarperCollins has been made aware that the book contained some inaccurate information concerning Roman Abramovich,” the publisher said in a statement.
“HarperCollins has now amended the book to record the position more accurately.
“In particular, HarperCollins has amended the text concerning the reasons for Mr Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea Football Club.
“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 Sergei Pugachev and two other unnamed individuals about the purchase of Chelsea Football Club.
“In recognition of this error, HarperCollins has agreed to make a payment to charity.
“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.”
Ms Belton, a former Financial Times Moscow correspondent and now a Reuters special correspondent, said she and the publisher had agreed to add comments already made by Roman Abramovich’s spokesperson.
The amendment would “correct an error involving Mr Abramovich’s ownership of [oil firm] Sibneft and make clearer the reporting over the much-disputed motivations for Mr Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea – to show this was never intended as a statement of fact” .
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