Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Rich-lister Jennings settles defamation case

Stephen Jennings. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Stephen Jennings. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

New Zealand-born businessman Stephen Jennings has reached an out-of-court settlement in his defamation case against Fairfax Media for what the company says is a "substantial" sum.

Jennings, according to a statement on Fairfax website stuff.co.nz, is donating the funds to charities.

The Waitara-born businessman, estimated to be worth around $980 million by the National Business Review, was once seen as the country's richest man.

He made a fortune as an investment banker amid the financial anarchy of post-Soviet Russia and is now spearheading huge urban development projects in Africa

Read more:
Stephen Jennings - from Taranaki to Africa

Last year, Fairfax Media - which also owns a string of newspapers around New Zealand - published a story written by senior journalist Michael Field about Jennings' business activities in Russia and Kenya.

Around a week after the publication, Fairfax published a retraction and apology which said the article "may have been interpreted as implying that Mr Jennings' business activities in those countries were unethical and open to criticism".

Although Jennings launched defamation proceedings against Fairfax Media and Field, the rich-lister's lawyer confirmed this morning that the action had now been settled.

Neither Fairfax Media, nor Field would comment today. Field no longer works for the media company.

A statement published this morning on stuff.co.nz says:

"Fairfax Media has settled a case brought by Stephen Jennings against the company and its former reporter, Michael Field, regarding an article published in March 2015 on www.stuff.co.nz, and in a number of regional Fairfax newspapers, about Mr Jennings and his businesses. Fairfax Media's management, its editors and Mr Field apologise unreservedly to Mr Jennings for the article.

We accept that the article and the statements about Mr Jennings and his businesses within it were entirely without merit; Mr Field did not contact Mr Jennings for his comment; and the article failed to meet Fairfax's high expectations in relation to its own editorial standards and journalistic ethics.

The amount of the settlement, which included an offer by Fairfax to repeat its apology in open court, is substantial. Mr Jennings has confirmed he is donating the net settlement to charities focused on Taranaki, his home province, and sub-Saharan Africa, where his businesses operate."

Fairfax's stuff.co.nz website is a competitor to nzherald.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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