Evans the prima donna loses £8.6m court claim

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chris Evans was left with a huge legal bill and a bruised ego yesterday after a judge threw out his High Court damages claim, branding him a laddish liar with a deep inferiority complex and the "temperament of a prima donna".

Mr Justice Lightman's blistering criticism of the media mogul was delivered to a packed Court 19 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Mr Evans had claimed £8.6m compensation for being sacked as the presenter of Virgin Radio's breakfast show.

The court was told that Virgin had been within its rights to dismiss the radio host, who repeatedly failed to turn up for work and embarked on a series of public drinking binges.

The judge said: "He has a reputation for laddish behaviour, including drunkenness. Despite his confident front, he is very insecure and as a consequence frequently has recourse to any means, legitimate or otherwise, to avoid confrontation or unpleasant or unpalatable situations."

His sacking, in June 2001, followed months of antics during which he regularly presented shows hung-over and once drank on air, summarily sacked two of his co-presenters and had a live falling out with Virgin Radio's management. His final words on his last programme were "sod 'em".

Mr Evans, 37, must pay the £3.75m cost of the 18-day trial in March, as well as damages to Virgin Radio and its parent company, the Scottish Media Group (SMG). The compensa-tion figure, due to be set next week, could be as high as £9m, taking his total legal expenses to about £13m. Mr Evans' personal fortune of £75m was gained when he sold Virgin Radio and his production company to SMG in 2000 for £225m.

The court was told that the presenter, who is married to the pop singer Billie, had been unable to cope with the loss of overall control after selling Virgin Radio. But Mr Evans claimed he was forced from his role by senior station managers stifling his "artistic and creative integrity". He claimed compensation for lost earnings and SMG share options.

Matters came to a head at the station when managers refused an "impossible" request on air by the DJ that he broadcast continuously for 14 hours on the day of England's World Cup qualifying match against Greece in June 2001. Mr Evans stormed out and went on a "three-day bender", but claimed he was unwell in his Surrey mansion.

The judge said: "He is petulant and given to sulking and walking away from situations whenever he considers himself thwarted. He has the temperament of a prima donna. Mr Evans was any management's nightmare and, as in a Greek tragedy, the eventual outcome practically inevitable."

Callum Spreng, an SMG spokesman, said: "We were always confident the court would support our position that Chris Evans repeatedly breached the terms of his contract."

Mr Evans said as he left the studios of Channel 5, where he now produces a morning chat show: "I'm a bit disappointed but philosophical about it. I haven't read the actual wording of the judgment and I don't want to read it."

What the judge said

"He has a reputation for laddish behaviour including drunkenness. He is petulant and given to sulking and walking away from situations whenever he considers himself thwarted. He has the temperament of a prima donna. Mr Evans was any management's nightmare ..."

Comments