Financier loses libel case against newspaper in UK’s High Court
* Rothschild sued over story on Russian oligarch and EU trade chief
* Judge says Rothschild brought EU trade role into disrepute
By Peter Griffiths
LONDON, Feb 10 (Reuters) – British financier Nathaniel Rothschild lost a libel case on Friday against a newspaper that depicted him as a “puppet master” who used his friendship with a European trade chief to impress a Russian oligarch and help close a business deal.
Rothschild sued the Daily Mail in London over a story that gave a rare insight into the world of super-rich businessmen who cross continents in private jets, dine in top restaurants and relax together in saunas.
One of Britain’s richest men, Rothschild is co-chairman of the London-listed coal mining company Bumi Plc and was once a close friend of UKfinance minister George Osborne.
The 40-year-old member of the European banking dynasty, who accused the newspaper of damaging his reputation, said he was disappointed by the ruling and would appeal.
The article said Rothschild flew the then European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson from the 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to Moscow to meet the aluminium billionaire Oleg Deripaska, among the richest men in Russia.
They went on to visit an aluminium plant in Siberia and relaxed together in a group whose members played soccer and ice hockey and sat in steam rooms before plunging into icy water.
The article said Rothschild had sought to impress Deripaska by unexpectedly bringing Mandelson to a dinner the Russian held with bosses from the U.S. aluminium company Alcoa Inc.
The newspaper said Rothschild had “pulled a very unexpected and also rather useful rabbit out of his hat” when Alcoa was worried about EU tariffs on Russian aluminium exports.
Rothschild’s lawyers told the court that the article implied he had risked Mandelson’s reputation “for the purpose of ingratiating himself” with Deripaska and helping to finalise a deal between the Russian’s metal firm RUSAL and Alcoa.
Before and after his term as European trade minister, Mandelson held senior positions in the British government under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and was an influential figure in Britain’s Labour party.