Vodafone Vindicated Over £150m F1 Sponsorship Deal

05 August 2003

Accused of reneging on a £150 million ($241.87m; €212.84m) Formula One racing sponsorship deal, global telecoms giant Vodafone was vindicated Monday in London’s High Court.

In a lawsuit brought by Eddie Jordan, flamboyant boss of the eponymous Jordan Grand Prix Formula One motor racing team, it was claimed that Vodafone global branding director David Haines promised to sponsor the team to the tune of £150m during a one-to-one telephone conversation in 2001.

But the claim failed to make it past the chequered flag, with the judge branding the Jordan boss a “wholly unsatisfactory witness”.

Jordan, an Irish-born multimillionaire and himself a racing driver before injury forced him out from behind the wheel, has a reputation for extrovert wheeler-dealing. But thanks to his bewigged nemesis, Mr Justice Langley, he now stands branded as a witness “reduced to embarrassed silence by the exposure of blatant inaccuracies in what he was saying”.

Jordan claimed that the sponsorship conversation with Vodafone amounted to a contractual obligation – but he and his director of business affairs Ian Phillips failed to convince the judge of their veracity.

In a written judgement Langley slammed into the F1 duo: “Their evidence was in many instances in stark conflict with and indeed belied by the documents, often documents of their own making. The evidence they gave and the claim Jordan makes became more and more contrived and unsustainable. Jordan's claim was in my judgment plainly demonstrated to be without foundation and false.”

Conscious of this slur on their client’s probity [actionable had it been made outside the privileged mock-mediaeval environs of the High Court], Jordan’s lawyers attempted late Friday to prevent the publication of the judge’s ruling by abandoning the case and offering to pay Vodafone’s entire legal bill. Sadly (for Jordan) they mistimed the application and left it too late to withdraw.

Said Vodafone: “We are very pleased that the case has been concluded and that the integrity of Vodafone and its senior management has been strongly underlined by the court.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff