Chris Evans pays £7m legal bill but shrugs off losses

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The Independent Online

To millions of listeners, he was a genius. To local publicans, he was a godsend. To Mr Justice Lightman, after a seven-week court battle which ended last month, he was a "liar" and a "prima donna".

And now that verdict has caught up with Chris Evans. Yesterday, it was revealed the broadcaster is to pay £7m to his former employer and business partner, the Scottish Media Group, following his disastrous decision to sue the company for unfair dismissal.

Mr Evans was fired by SMG's Virgin Radio in June 2001 after a five-day drinking binge. He should have been presenting the station's breakfast show - but he missed work and was instead pictured in the newspapers drinking with Billie Piper, his wife.

He sued the company for £8.6m worth of shares he claimed he was owed as part of the deal when he sold his company Ginger to SMG three years ago. SMG countersued for breach of contract. The court ruled that Mr Evans's dismissal was fair - and that he was not entitled to the shares.

Yesterday, SMG announced that Mr Evans had agreed to pay £7m to cover costs and damages incurred by the company. He will have to find an estimated further £2m to cover his own costs.

Callum Spreng, spokesman for SMG, said: "We were pleased at the time of the court case that our account in defence of the interests of our shareholders was justified." He added: "Now we are happy to have settled the issue finally and to move on from here."

Mr Evans's wealth, though dented, is likely to survive. His profit, when he sold Ginger at the top of the market, is estimated to have been £75m.

On top of that, Mr Evans retains a personal shareholding in SMG. According to the company's most recent annual report, he is the company's fourth biggest stockholder - owning more than 3 per cent of the company, worth more than £8m.

Yesterday, Mr Evans chose silence - an option that does not come naturally. But at the end of the court case he announced enigmatically: "All will come out right at last, have we such faith in the goodness of providence."

For those who prefer their statements a little less cryptic, he elaborated in an interview with the News of the World. He told the newspaper: "It's only money. I still have it in the bank and I don't lose any sleep over it. I can afford to lose it." He added: "I'd rather be me and lose than them and win. I have a great life, a wonderful wife and these are the most important things. Sure, money is important but love is priceless."

His magic touch, however, appears to be deserting him. Earlier this year, he returned to television after a long absence with a format for Channel 4 called Boys and Girls. Presented by Vernon Kay, it failed to capture the imagination - or an audience. The network is not to recommission the show.

Meanwhile, over on Channel 5 his early evening show, Live With... has been similarly unimpressive - audiences have been as low as 200,000. To make matters worse, The Terry and Gaby Show, another Evans programme, starring Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslin, has been beaten in the audience ratings by Noddy.

But Mr Evans has developed a reputation as resilient and few would write off his chances of returning to success.