Mike Ashley secures Times apology over ‘protected’ phone records allegations

The former Newcastle United owner launched libel proceedings over an investigation into the activities of mobile telephone company Sport Mobile.

Tom Pilgrim
Wednesday 02 March 2022 12:46
Mike Ashley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Mike Ashley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

A newspaper publisher has apologised to billionaire businessman Mike Ashley and agreed to pay him damages over “untrue” allegations that his phone records were “protected” during a High Court battle.

The former Newcastle United owner launched libel proceedings against Times Newspapers following front page coverage of its investigation into the activities of mobile telephone company Sport Mobile.

The High Court in London was told on Wednesday that the publisher of The Times had issued an apology and retraction over a series of articles in print and online on July 17 and 18 2020.

Adam Speker QC, representing Mr Ashley, the chief executive of Frasers Group, said the stories were entitled “Stars’ phone records ‘fixed’”, “How co-owner tries to mine Ashley court case” and “Two arrested in ‘phone fixing case’”.

He told the court that Times Newspapers had reported “in the context of an investigation into the activities of the mobile telephone company Sport Mobile” that “its founder had claimed that his company had ‘protected’ Mike Ashley’s phone records” in the context of 2017 High Court proceedings involving Mr Ashley and investment banker Jeffrey Blue.

Jeffrey Blue (Nick Ansell/PA)

Mr Speker added: “Following libel proceedings brought by Mr Ashley, the court found that the articles were defamatory of him.

“The court found that in the articles it was alleged that there are grounds to suspect that Sport Mobile helped Mr Ashley to avoid the disclosure in High Court proceedings of potentially relevant text messages and phone records, which Mr Ashley had told the court he could not produce whilst knowing Sport Mobile could in fact have obtained them.”

Mr Speker told the hearing, before Judge Jaron Lewis, that the publisher “confirmed it did not intend to make these claims”, adding: “It made a formal offer of amends that was accepted by Mr Ashley.

“It has published an apology and retraction and it has agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Ashley as well as his legal costs.”

He added that the publisher “through its apology published in the print edition of The Times and online, has accepted that any allegations of wrongdoing by Mr Ashley in his litigation with Jeffrey Blue are untrue”.

Emily Costello, representing the publisher, told the court: “Times Newspapers Limited did not intend to make the allegations that the court found the articles to bear.

“It accepts that the allegations are untrue and withdraws them and apologises to Mr Ashley.”

Mr Ashley said in a statement issued by Frasers Group: “The false allegations of wrongdoing against me were unrestrainedly published on the front page of The Times but did not contain a shred of truth.

“This was a disgraceful and irresponsible piece of comic book journalism.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in