Legatum comment on Sunday Express apology to Christopher Chandler

We welcome the Sunday Express newspaper’s decision to publish an apology to set the record straight on Legatum following the publication of an error strewn article titled “Russian-funded think tank “stages soft coup” with Boris and Gove’s hard Brexit letter” on 26th November last year.

The piece made a number of accusations about the Legatum Group and one of our partners, Christopher Chandler. These included the claim that Christopher Chandler was a Russian tycoon. In fact, Mr Chandler was born in New Zealand and is still a New Zealander.

The article claimed that Mr Chandler, through his previous business Sovereign Global, supported President Putin’s takeover of the Russian energy giant Gazprom. In fact, Sovereign Global became a shareholder in Gazprom as part of its global equity portfolio many years before Vladimir Putin became President of the Russian Federation.

Sovereign and subsequently Legatum, have a history of standing up for shareholder rights and engaging with management to improve the businesses in which we invest. While it is true that Sovereign Global worked with other minority investors to improve corporate governance, including the appointment of a board member to represent the interests of minority shareholders, neither Mr Chandler, nor any of the Legatum Group partners, has ever met President Putin. The later appointment of Alexey Miller as CEO of Gazprom by the Russian Government is something that minority shareholders like Sovereign Global had no influence over.

This falsehood was then used to imply that there was a link between the Russian President and the work of the Legatum Institute Foundation. In fact, the Legatum Institute Foundation, an independent educational charity registered in the UK, has many donors, including Legatum Foundation, but none of them is Russian.

Moreover, the Legatum Institute Foundation has in fact been one of the foremost think tanks warning against the dangers of Russian influence on public debate in the West and the dangers from Russian propaganda undermining support for key western values such as democracy and free trade. One example of this is the August 2016 report by the Legatum Institute Foundation entitled, 'Winning the Information War' that "... offers techniques and counter-strategies to combat Russian propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe" which can be found here.

The Express, like the Mail on Sunday, The Times and the Financial Times have all gotten it precisely backwards. The Legatum Institute Foundation has been on the forefront of calling for truth and condemning the pernicious effects of propaganda, especially from Russia. Nevermind the truth, however, as some in the media will use innuendo and outright falsehoods to advance their agenda, becoming the very agents of the propaganda they claim to stand against.

Similarly, despite strident claims to the contrary by some members of the British media, the Legatum Group took no position on Brexit ahead of the UK’s referendum nor made any statements either for or against Brexit. The Legatum Institute Foundation also remained neutral. In fact, it hosted a number of events looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the UK remaining in the EU.

Following the referendum, a small group at the Legatum Institute Foundation commenced work on how to best address the international opportunities and challenges that would confront British trade after departure from the EU. This work, intended to benefit the British people, has drawn attacks from those who are opposed to the referendum decision. 

It is no secret that there is a vocal and influential minority whose publicly stated goal is to reverse or derail the Brexit decision of the British people. As the attacks on Legatum have revealed, these people are offended by the belief that Britain can be successful outside the EU, and are therefore willing to fabricate allegations and smear reputations in order to discredit anyone working toward making that a reality.

At a time when traditional journalism is under increased scrutiny, we welcome the Sunday Express’s principled position and willingness to put the record straight.

Read the Sunday Express’ full apology here.