Friday, June 7, 2013

Saudi Prince Sues Forbes for Libel Over Low Placement on Rich List

The Savoy Hotel, London.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
England's recent defamation law reforms (see "TUOL" post 4/29/13) will be put to the test by billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whom The Guardian Web site ( reports has sued Forbes Magazine for allegedly under-reporting the extent of his wealth.

The 58-year-old Alwaleed, whose Kingdom Holding investments include swanky hotels the Savoy in London and New York City's Plaza, filed a libel suit in London's High Court against Forbes Editor Randall Lane, along with the business magazine's publisher and two of its reporters. Apparently, Forbes' annual Rich List assessed the Prince's worth at $20 billion, whereas Alwaleed pegs his fortune at closer to $30 billion, and claims Forbes is "demonstrably biased" against Saudi Arabian businesses.

Forbes, according to The Guardian article, said members of the Prince's inner circle lobbied the magazine for higher placement on the Rich List for Alwaleed, who, apparently finds little solace in the fact that his private Boeing 747 jet is equipped with a solid gold throne that no doubt affords him ample leg room. The magazine reported that it calculated Kingdom Holding's worth based on the value of its investments, rather than its stock price on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange.

The Prince faces an uphill challenge as England, once decried as the principal destination for libel tourism, will require him to prove that he suffered, or is likely to suffer, serious financial harm as a result of the allegedly libelous lower placement on the Rich List. If he somehow manages to do that, Forbes will look to the SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring & Established Constitutional Heritage) Act signed into law by President Obama in 2010 that shields U.S. citizens and businesses against foreign libel judgments that run afoul of First Amendment tenets.

That Alwaleed would get his royal knickers in a twist and incur the costs of a quixotic libel suit alleging his reputation was harmed because a media defendant underestimated his wealth may not warrant higher placement on Forbes' Rich List, but certainly is evidence to the staff of "TUOL" that he has too much money for his own good.
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