New Zealand news publisher Fairfax Media apologized again and paid a “substantial” amount of money to New Zealand-born former billionaire Stephen Jennings after suggesting last year that he acted unethically in Kenya.
As iMediaEthics reported last year, Fairfax’s New Zealand website Stuff.co.nz retracted an article the claims Jennings, who lives and works in Africa, acted unethically and wanted to “destroy” a competitor.
“The article may have been interpreted as implying that Mr Jennings’ business activities in those countries were unethical and open to criticism” Stuff said in its March 2015 retraction. “It also implied that Mr Jennings was a business rival to Bill Browder, a well known American businessman, and wanted to destroy him.”
This month, Fairfax settled Jennings’ legal complaints about the article. In a statement from Jennings sent to iMediaEthics by a representative, Jennings said:
“I am pleased that this matter is settled, with an unqualified admission of wrongdoing by Fairfax Media and journalist Michael Field. The article published by Fairfax was full of unsubstantiated statements that completely contradicted my track record of business achievements over two decades.“The substantial net settlement received from Fairfax Media is being donated to charities focused on Taranaki, my home province, and sub-Saharan Africa, where my businesses operate.”
When asked which specific charities would receive donations, Jennings’ rep said “the details are in the statement.”
A statement on Stuff’s website confirms the settlement. That July 5 statement reads:
“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 declined to comment further to iMediaEthics.
Jennings, “estimated to be worth around $980 million by the National Business Review, was once seen as the country’s richest man,” the New Zealand Herald, which noted it’s a competitor with Fairfax Media, reported.
UPDATED: 7/6/2016 10:03 AM EST