Sydney newspaper Daily Telegraph has issued a formal apology for publishing “false and defamatory” claims about Oscar winner and South Sydney Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe in a column written by senior writer Paul Kent earlier this year.
In the apology, which was issued today, Kent stated:
“In my column on April 24 I inferred that Russell Crowe betrayed George Piggins for his own financial benefit and that Mr Crowe engaged in a campaign of lies, slander and misinformation against Mr Piggins during the events leading up to his purchase of the Rabbitohs in 2006.
I now accept that these statements were false and defamatory and should never have been published.
The Daily Telegraph and I wish to apologise to Mr Crowe for the harm, hurt and distress caused by this column.”
The apology to Crowe was made after lawyers for the actor and businessman, barrister Sue Chrysanthou, SC and Sydney solicitor Bill Kalantzis, issued a concerns notice. The newspaper offered to make amends, heading off a costly defamation trial.
The column at the centre of the potential costly legal battle between the Daily Telegraph and Crowe, was headlined “They Owe George”, a legendary former player and coach of the Australian professional rugby league club Rabbitohs, and said the “high-flying” club “wouldn’t exist today was it not for this great man”.
Australian rugby league personality George Piggins is a former player, coach and administrator of the South Sydney Rabbitohs club. Following their exclusion from the National Rugby League premiership at the end of the Super League war, Piggins also successfully led the Rabbitohs’ battle for re-inclusion in the NRL in the early 2000s – a fact referred to by the club on its official website in glowing terms, calling him “one of the leading figures in the club’s fight for reinstatement to the National Rugby League.” Since 2003, the “George Piggins Medal” has been awarded annually to South Sydney’s player of the year.
Blackcourt League Investments Pty Limited, which is owned in equal shares by Crowe and billionaire James Packer, has a 75 per cent share in the Rabbitohs. The South Sydney Members Rugby League Football Club owns the remaining 25 per cent. Mr Packer bought Peter Holmes a Court’s 37.5 per cent share in the club in 2014.
Crowe’s barrister Ms Chrysanthou also acted in recent times for Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young against Sky News, whereby the broadcaster paid $40,000 plus legal costs to avoid a defamation suit being filed against it after it wrongly aired claims that Hanson-Young had involved her young niece in a dangerous environmental protest. Neither the senator nor her niece had attended the protest.