Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 15:39 UK

Bates told to pay libel damages

Ken Bates
Mr Bates lives in Monaco and was not present for the judgement

Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has been told to pay £50,000 libel damages to an ex-director of the football club who alleged he had been "persecuted".

Businessman Melvyn Levi, 65, brought the action at London's High Court over a letter and three articles written in Leeds United match-day programmes.

Mr Levi said he had been accused of trying to blackmail the club and of being unscrupulous and dishonourable.

Mr Bates, 78, had denied libel, pleading fair comment.

Judge Sir Charles Gray said the libel action arose from events surrounding the acquisition of Leeds United by a consortium headed by Mr Bates in 2005.

Mr Levi claimed the material in the club programmes contained "grave and offensive" libels which "seriously injured" his reputation.

He was one of the members of the Yorkshire Consortium which bought the club about 10 months before Mr Bates's purchase.

'Serious' allegations

Mr Levi said he was accused of being a "shyster" who had tried to blackmail the club over money.

The judge ruled that Mr Bates had failed in his defences of justification and fair comment.

Sir Charles described the allegation of blackmail as "particularly serious".

He said the libels were repeated "on several occasions over a period of 10 months" and the "publishees, principally supporters of the club, were persons whose esteem Mr Levi valued".

Mr Bates, who lives in Monaco and was not present for the judgement, was refused permission to appeal.

However, he could still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

A libel claim made by Mr Levi in relation to a letter written by Mr Bates to club members in August 2007 failed, as the judge ruled it was covered by qualified privilege.

After the decision was announced Mr Levi, who lives in Leeds, said: "I am happy. All I wanted to do was to clear my name and I have done."

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SEE ALSO
Bates sued over 'shyster' article
02 Jun 09 |  West Yorkshire

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