A wealthy Russian businessman, who agreed to pay £900,000 a year to a public relations company in order to foster his good reputation with a view to achieving British citizenship, has been ordered to pay almost £500,000 by the High Court after he purported to unilaterally terminate the contract.
The businessman – who sought asylum in Britain following his arrival in 2005 and was granted an ‘investor visa’ by the Home Office on the basis that he had UK assets worth at least £1 million – was desperate to become British and employed the company as part of his campaign to portray himself in a positive light.
The company stated that it could – in return for fees of £75,000 a month – provide ‘strategic counsel’ on how to manage his public image and ‘premium lifestyle’, and that it could lay on personal introductions to ‘an influential network’ of business and political contacts, as well as recommending ‘philanthropic opportunities’.
The businessman had paid the company’s bills without demur for four months before declaring himself dissatisfied with its service. Subsequent invoices went unpaid and, after accusing the company of repudiatory breaches of contract, he insisted that he had been fully entitled to end the deal.
The company launched legal proceedings, claiming compensation for the unpaid fees and losses arising from early termination of the contract. A default judgment was entered against the businessman after he failed to respond to the company’s claim or put in any defence.
The Court ruled that, in making no attempt to challenge the judgment, the businessman had forfeited his right to allege that the service provided by the company was unsatisfactory or that his premature termination of the contract was justified. In the circumstances, he was ordered to pay the company £495,936, plus interest.