In a clear warning that a failure to reduce contracts to writing is an invitation to costly litigation, the High Court has awarded a $10 million commission to an international businesswoman who brokered the sale of a $120 million Airbus by a Saudi Arabian prince to a Libyan company, for the use of Colonel Gaddafi.
Although it was not disputed that the businesswoman had put a great deal of work into arranging the aircraft’s sale, she faced claims by the Saudi prince’s lawyers that the English courts had no jurisdiction to consider her claim and that he was entitled to refuse to pay her any commission ‘at his discretion’.
Only after lengthy and extremely expensive litigation was the businesswoman able to convince the High Court that her commission had been orally agreed by a representative of the prince during a meeting at a London restaurant. The Court found that $10 million was a sum that fairly recognised her ‘considerable efforts’ in achieving the sale, which had not been free from difficulties.
Rejecting the prince’s plea that the businesswoman had ‘stabbed him in the back’ during fraught negotiations for the sale, the Court found that his evidence had been ‘confusing, regularly changing on occasions and unreliable’. The businesswoman was, by contrast, ‘an impressive witness’, and arguments that she had never been guaranteed a commission on the sale were rejected.