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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 16:00 GMT
Harrods loses 'Enron' libel case
The Harrods April Fool's Day prank backfired
Harrods has lost a High Court libel action over a Wall Street Journal article which the store said likened it to disgraced US company Enron.

Harrods had claimed the report was an attack on its corporate trustworthiness and compliance with securities rules.

But the paper's owners Dow Jones denied libel, claiming the article was "virtually non-existent" in the UK.

The High Court jury's majority verdict means the top store faces a costs bill of an estimated 500,000.

Harrods began the action against Dow Jones and Co over an article in the US newspaper, headlined "The Enron of Britain", on 5 April 2002.

James Price QC, who represented the upmarket store, described the article as an "extraordinary attack" on the company.

Tongue-in-cheek

The piece appeared days after the paper fell for an April Fool's joke by Harrods' owner Mohammed al-Fayed.

Mr Al-Fayed announced in a press release on the eve of April Fool's Day that Harrods would be floated on the stock market on 1 April.

Anyone interested was invited to contact LOOF LIRPA, or April Fool spelt backwards.

The Wall Street Journal reported the sale of shares as fact and later had to put out a correction.

The US newspaper's article, which appeared a few days later, referred to the "joke" and said that if Harrods ever went public "investors would be wise to question its every disclosure".

Dow Jones' counsel Gavin Millar QC, argued that the reference which appeared in the online edition and the US edition - but not the European edition - was tongue-in-cheek and meant to be humorous.

The newspaper said publication in the UK - where only 10 copies are sent to subscribers - was virtually non-existent and did not injure Harrods' reputation.

  • A special Money Programme investigation into Mohammed Al-Fayed, the Curious Case of the Disappearing Pharaoh, will be shown on Thursday, March 4 at 21.50 GMT on BBC 2.




  • SEE ALSO:
    Fayed wins block on BBC tax probe
    08 Jan 04  |  Business
    Harrods under store card spotlight
    08 Oct 03  |  Business
    Security stepped up for 1m shoes
    29 Apr 03  |  London
    Profile: Mohamed Al Fayed
    29 Mar 03  |  England
    Al Fayed to quit UK
    29 Mar 03  |  England


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