New Zealand-born businessman and rich-lister Stephen Jennings has launched defamation action against Fairfax Media and a senior journalist.

Jennings, estimated to be worth around $950 million according to the National Business Review, was once seen as the country's richest man.

Originally from Taranaki and now in his mid-50s, Jennings founded the investment bank Renaissance Capital in Russia during the 1990s.

In 2012 the Financial Times reported that Jennings gave up control of Renaissance Capital to his Russian billionaire partner.

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In March, Fairfax Media - which owns stuff.co.nz and 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 later 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".

"It also implied that Mr Jennings was a business rival to Bill Browder, a well known American businessman, and wanted to destroy him.

Stuff.co.nz accepts that none of these statements or implications have any factual basis or legitimacy," the retraction said.

"No attempt was made to contact Mr Jennings prior to publication, and we accept that had we done so, the article would not have contained those statements or implications."

While Field worked for Fairfax at the time of the publication, it is understood he has since left the company.

Jennings' QC Julian Miles told the High Court at Auckland this morning that the story appeared in nine newspapers "up and down the country" and that seven weeks ago defamation proceedings were launched.

The case came before Justice Graham Lang this morning, where Fairfax's and Field's lawyer Robert Stewart applied to have a conference where the parties would meet with a judge.

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The purpose of this conference is try resolve the matter.

Miles, on the other hand, wanted Fairfax to file a statement of defence and get access to any documents that could have been behind the decision to publish the story.

Justice Lang scheduled the conference for August 25 and made orders for a statement of defence and other documents to be filed.