Canadian billionaire Mitchell Goldhar can sue Israeli newspaper for libel, appeals court rules

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Ontario’s top court has cleared the way for a Canadian billionaire Mitchell Goldhar, to sue a leading Israeli newspaper for libel.

The split decision in favour of Toronto-based real estate developer relates to a story published by Haaretz in November 2011. The paper criticized Goldhar management practices as owner of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club, which plays in the Israeli premier league.

The article claim: “There are those who believe that Goldhar’s managerial culture is based on overconcentration bordering on megalomania, penny-pinching and a lack of long-term planning, ” court documents show.

The article was published on the newspaper’s websites in English and Hebrew and was available in Canada.

According to The Canadian Press,  Goldhar sued in Ontario, claiming $700, 000 in damages for libel against Haaretz, its sports editor and the reporter, David Marouani. He argued the article had significant factual errors and fabrications. Goldhar also said the article suggested “behavioural characteristics of megalomania, a personality disorder or mental illness” and that he made “irrational” business decisions.

Haaretz countered that Ontario courts had no jurisdiction to hear the suit. Any trial should be held in Israel or the claim stayed as an abuse of process,  sachem.ca reports.

Goldhar claimed he wanted a jury trial — something not available in Israel. He also said he would not seek any damages for harm to his reputation outside Canada, and he offered to pay for Haaretz’s witnesses to travel to Ontario.

In March 2015, Justice Mario Faieta sided with Goldhar, finding that about 300 people in Canada had read the article online and that Ontario had jurisdiction.

Haaretz appealed, but the Court of Appeals said there was no abuse of process.

“The article puts Goldhar’s Canadian connection front and centre by acknowledging that he is a long-distance operator and spends most of his time in Canada, and by asserting that he imported his management model for Maccabi Tel Aviv from his main business interest, his Canadian shopping centre partnership, ” the Appeal Court said.

“It was no surprise — and not unfair — that Goldhar would choose to vindicate his reputation in Ontario.”

Justice Sarah Pepall said, the action would more properly be tried in Israel even if Ontario courts have jurisdiction. Israel is clearly the more appropriate forum. Additionally, such an outcome is in the interests of justice.”

 

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