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Who's suing who

A COMPANY owned by Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed is suing Heathrow Airport over the number of air landing "slots" allocated to aircraft likely to use the company's Executive Jet Centre at the airport.

A couple of years ago the Harrods group bought Hunting Business Aviation from Hunting Plc, and renamed it Metro Business Aviation.

Last week Metro Business Aviation issued a writ against Heathrow Airport claiming damages over the number of short term slots allocated to the kind of air traffic which would use the Executive Jet Centre. The Centre is a maintenance depot which Metro has leased from the airport on the Southern Perimeter Road, Heathrow, since November 1995.

Metro agreed to pay renton the Centre of pounds 788,000 to Heathrow for the year to 30 November 1997, and then pounds 1,075,000 a year until the 30 November 2002.

Metro was intending to use the Centre to provide engineering services to aircraft, such as overhaul and maintenance. Metro is claiming that after it had signed the lease for the Centre with Heathrow in 1995 Heathrow changed its policy about providing slots for the type of aircraft that might use the centre.

Metro's writ says: "The best estimate that the plaintiff can presently give is that by virtue of the existence and implementation fo the defendant's policy by the end of 1997 approximately 20 per cent fewer aircraft were using the plaintiff's services than in 1995."

Metro's solicitors Davenport Lyons conclude that "the defendant has derogated from its grant." Mr Fayed's company is seeking damages and costs.

NORTHERN & SHELL, the publishing group run by chairman Richard Desmond, is suing New Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, over an article about Paula Yates in the 14th February paper headed "PAULA: I WILL NEVER TALK TO GELDOF AGAIN".

Northern & Shell, whose titles include OK! Magazine, Penthouse and Asian Babes, is seeking an injunction to restrain News Group "from further infringing the plaintiff's copyright by publishing or authorising to be published in `The Sun' or otherwise any substantial part of an article headed `Paula Yates World Exclusive' published in issue 98 of OK! Magazine dated 20th February on the front cover and pages 22 to 43 inclusive and offered for sale on 14th Febraury 1998."

Mr Desomond's company is also seeking damages for infringement of copyright, damages for libel, and damages for slander "published by an employee of the defendant namely Andrew Coulson, acting in the course of his employment during a telephone conversation...on 14th February 1998."

Mr Coulson is editor of The Sun's "Bizarre" showbiz gossip column.

The lawyers acting for Northern & Shell aer Wiggin & Co of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

ROVER GROUP is suing Innocenti Cooper Cars Ltd of Bexley, Kent, and a director of the same company, Michael Fernando, over use of the famous "Mini Cooper" name.

Back in the `sixties the Italian firm Innocenti built a luxury version of the Rover Mini under license in Turin for the Italian market. Now Rover Group is trying to prevent a separate UK company, Innocenti Cooper Cars, from "passing off" cars under Rover group registered trade marks. Rover is also seeking an injunction to stop the company from using the names "Mini Cooper," "Innocenti Mini Cooper", or "Innocenti Cooper."

Rover's writ, issued in the High Court last Monday, also demands that the defendants should disclose on Oath the number of cars in their possession which would come under the terms of the injunction, and the amount of money received as a result of their trade in such cars.

Rover has retained solicitors Martineau Johnson to pursue the case.

I CAME across a blast from the past in the Chancery writ room in the High Court this week, unearthing a writ which last week was transferred in from the courts in Manchester.

It is the original writ issued four years ago by 198 investors against Grieg Middleton, the private client stockbroker, over an Entrerprise Zone Trust sponsored by the firm that went sour in the early 1990s.

The investors included one Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne, a well known footballer, who invested pounds 25,000 in the london Docklands property scheme.

The losses suffered by investors led to the Securities and Futures Authority levying a fine of pounds 100,000, its heaviest ever, against Greig Middleton.

Last September Grieg Middleton settled with the investors for an undisclosed sum. Quite why the writ has resurfaced in the London High Court, now that the whole thing is settled, is one of those strange foibles of the British system of justic.