This libel and data protection action involves a column published in the print and online versions of The Daily Telegraph on 7th May 2020 about Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is a prominent businessman, the founder of the well-known airline easyJet. The purpose of this hearing was to determine the preliminary meaning of the item. The judge considered that a number of facts were uncontroversial including that the claimant had gone to a Caribbean island; that he was engaged in a dispute within easyJet in which he was seeking to persuade the company to cancel a large order with Airbus; that three major easyJet shareholders had publicly backed the opposing view; and that the claimant had had something to say about that.
Held: The meaning of this item, beyond the uncontroversial facts summarised above, is that the claimant:
“… felt so strongly that easyJet should cancel the Airbus contract, and that the opposition of some major shareholders to that was misconceived, that on one occasion he caricatured them and their motivation dismissively using samples of rhetoric that cannot be taken literally or seriously.” This item is an expression of the columnist’s opinion. It is not defamatory at common law.
Mr Edward Craven and Mr Hugh Tomlinson QC were involved in this case.