The judge in the libel case between Virgin chairman Richard Branson
and G-Tech chairman Guy Snowden has dismissed G-Tech’s US corporate
communications vice-president Robert Rendine from the action.
Mr Justice Morland told the High Court last Friday that Rendine ’could
not be held liable personally to Mr Branson for any alleged defamatory
material broadcast or published on G-Tech’s behalf’.
Branson was suing Rendine as well as G-Tech’s chairman and chief
executive Guy Snowden, for saying that Branson had made unsubstantiated
allegations about Snowden.
In a BBC Panorama programme broadcast on 11 December 1995, Branson
claimed that Snowden had attempted to bribe him into dropping his bid to
run the National Lottery. Rendine appeared on Radio 4 on 11 and 12
December 1995 rubbishing Branson’s claims.
G-Tech owns a stake in Camelot, which won the franchise to operate the
Some senior PR figures welcomed the ruling. ’We ought to be grateful to
the judge for clarifying that an individual acting as a spokesman on
behalf of an organisation or another individual has the protection of
the law,’ said IPR president Peter Walker. But he also warned that
’before delivering a message one has to take every step so as to not
knowingly disseminate a falsehood.’
Sir Bernard Ingham, former press adviser to Lady Thatcher, was less
convinced of the benefits of the judgment. ’You could read the decision
as the dismissal of PR as being of no account whatsoever to anyone. I
don’t think PR people should be so easily absolved,’ he said.
Branson’s libel action against Snowden continues, as does Snowden’s
counter-action against Branson’s original bribery allegation.