LONDON, June 7 Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed
bin Talal has sued Forbes magazine for libel in a British court,
alleging its valuation of his wealth at $20 billion was short of
the mark by $9.6 billion, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported
The prince, a grandson of Saudi Arabia's founder and nephew
of King Abdullah, had attacked the U.S. magazine's ranking of
world billionaires as flawed and biased against Middle Eastern
businesses after he was ranked number 26 in this year's list.
An official at the High Court in London confirmed that
Prince Alwaleed had filed a defamation suit against Forbes, its
editor Randall Lane, and two of its journalists on April 30.
Details of the claim were not immediately available.
Through his Kingdom Holding Company, Prince
Alwaleed owns large stakes in Citigroup, News Corp
and Apple Inc, among other companies. He is
also owner or part-owner of luxury hotels including the Plaza in
New York, the Savoy in London and the George V in Paris.
This year's Forbes World Billionaires list was published on
March 4, and the following day Kingdom Holding said the
valuation process used "incorrect data" and "seemed designed to
disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions".
The public spat attracted a lot of comment, but Forbes stuck
by its estimate of Prince Alwaleed's wealth and published an
in-depth article in its March 25 issue entitled "Prince Alwaleed
and the curious case of Kingdom Holding stock".
The article gave details about how Forbes had arrived at the
figure of $20 billion and criticised what it described as a lack
of transparency by Kingdom Holding in detailing its assets.
The article also described Prince Alwaleed's marble-filled,
420-room Riyadh palace, his private Boeing 747 equipped with a
throne, and his 120-acre resort on the edge of the Saudi capital
with five homes, five artificial lakes and a mini-Grand Canyon.
The High Court official in London said the two journalists
named in the defamation claim were Kerry Dolan, the author of
the article, and Francine McKenna, who was credited with
No date has been set for a court hearing in the case, which
is in its very early stages, the official said.
The law firm Kobre & Kim, which the Guardian said was acting
for Prince Alwaleed in the suit, declined to comment. New
York-based Forbes could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Guardian article quoted the magazine as saying: "We're
very surprised at claims that Prince Alwaleed has decided to sue
Forbes, particularly if he has done so in the United Kingdom, a
jurisdiction that has nothing whatsoever to do with our recent
story which raised questions about his claims about his wealth."
Media lawyer Jonathan Coad, of the London firm Lewis Silkin,
said London was seen as a more attractive place than New York to
bring defamation suits because U.S. libel law made higher
requirements of claimants.
"In the U.S., a high-profile claimant has to prove firstly
that the article was untrue and secondly that the publisher knew
that the article was untrue, which is what we call malice. Those
are two hurdles that a UK libel action does not present," said
Coad, who is not involved in the Prince Alwaleed case.
Under British libel law, a claimant has only to prove that a
publication was defamatory. Then the burden of proof passes to
the defendant, who has several possible defences, including that
the publication was true.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Pravin Char)