Alwaleed, Forbes Both Claim Victory After U.K. Defamation Ruling

A U.K. judge ruled that Forbes Media LLC articles about billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud’s finances may have been defamatory, paving the way for a full trial in the case.

Four articles written by the New York-based publisher last year said Alwaleed had “knowingly caused the share price” of his Kingdom Holding Co. to rise, increasing his own net worth.

The ruling by Judge Michael Tugendhat allowed both sides to declare victory with Alwaleed saying it confirmed that the Forbes articles made defamatory accusations, “strengthening Prince Alwaleed’s claims.” Forbes said the judge found for the company “on all but one relatively minor issue.”

Alwaleed, 59, is Saudi Arabia’s richest person with a fortune valued at $27.7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Through his Riyadh-based investment group, Kingdom Holding, he owns stakes in hotels and equities including News Corp., Twitter and London’s Savoy Hotel.

Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding said in a statement that the court ruled in his favor on the meaning of key elements of the Forbes articles in April 2013.

“The Prince has consistently maintained that Forbes defamed him by falsely accusing him of defaulting on important contractual obligations, dishonestly manipulating the share price of Kingdom Holding Company, and firing KHC’s auditor because it raised concerns that KHC’s value was over-estimated,” the company said in a statement.

Airbus Jet

Tugendhat said that Kingdom was not defamed by the articles, which also claimed the prince deliberately defaulted on a contractual payment with Airbus Group NV over an Airbus 380 jet he didn’t want anymore.

Forbes said the article about the plane was the only issue in the ruling that went in Alwaleed’s favor.

“According to the judge, the articles did not conclude the Prince was dishonest but merely conveyed ‘strong grounds for suspecting’ that he had been dishonest,” the company said in an article posted on its website.

A nephew of Saudi ruler King Abdullah, Alwaleed drew attention from the international investing community in 1991, when he invested $590 million in Citigroup. Known for his flashy lifestyle, the billionaire owns a 370,000-square foot home in Riyadh where he keeps zebras and giraffes in his personal zoo

Alwaleed lost a lawsuit over a $10 million commission on an airplane he sold to former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, in which a judge accused him of being “completely unreliable.”

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