Jupiter mulls legal action against Brunswick

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Jupiter Asset Management is considering legal action against a leading financial public relations firm over an alleged "dirty tricks" campaign.

Jupiter was in discussions yesterday with its lawyers, Clifford Chance, over the possibility of action against Brunswick, which it accuses of distributing misleading information to journalists.

Last week a small group of journalists received a copy of Jupiter's accounts for the year 2000 along with a two-page summary. The summary was printed on plain paper but accompanied by a Brunswick compliment slip.

Jupiter describes the summary as "wilful misrepresentation" and "school-boy dirty tricks". It is considering legal action for libel.

Brunswick denies any wrongdoing. Brunswick does not deny sending the material, but David Brewerton, a Brunswick director, said: "An annual report filed at Companies House is a public document and drawing people's attention to a public document is scarcely dirty tricks."

The City row is the latest episode in a simmering dispute which has pitched Jupiter Asset Management against John Duffield and New Star Asset Management. Mr Duffield set up Jupiter but left on acrimonious terms last year after its sale to Commerzbank, the German bank. Mr Duffield made £175m from his stake in Jupiter. He also walked away with an additional £5m after a wrongful dismissal action was settled out of court.

He later set up a new fund management firm, New Star Asset Management and took several Jupiter staff with him. The spat has continued since with a war of words between Mr Duffield and Edward Bonham Carter, his successor as Jupiter's chief executive. Brunswick acts as public relations adviser to New Star.

The information supplied to journalists last week showed that, according to Jupiter's accounts filed three weeks ago, Jupiter made a £47m loss for the calendar year 2000.

Jupiter says this is due to £97m of exceptional costs related to decisions made by Mr Duffield when he was still in charge. Reef Hogg, a director of Jupiter, said yesterday. "We believe Brunswick's dirty tricks campaign is a means of deflecting blame and criticism from their client, New Star."

The battle has pitched two starkly different characters into a fierce battle. Mr Duffield, 61, is known as a City bruiser who relishes a fight. By contrast Mr Bonham Carter, 41, is a fine-boned English gentleman whose great-grandfather was the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. His sister is Helena Bonham Carter, the actress.