Vacuum tycoon loses libel case against UK newspaper

FILE - James Dyson arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice, in London, on Nov. 21, 2023. Billionaire vacuum cleaner tycoon James Dyson lost a libel lawsuit Friday against the Daily Mirror for a column that suggested he was a hypocrite who “screwed” Britain by moving his company's headquarters to Singapore after supporting the campaign in favor of the U.K.'s breakup with the European Union. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)
FILE - James Dyson arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice, in London, on Nov. 21, 2023. Billionaire vacuum cleaner tycoon James Dyson lost a libel lawsuit Friday against the Daily Mirror for a column that suggested he was a hypocrite who “screwed” Britain by moving his company's headquarters to Singapore after supporting the campaign in favor of the U.K.'s breakup with the European Union. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)

LONDON (AP) -- Billionaire vacuum cleaner tycoon James Dyson lost a libel lawsuit Friday against the Daily Mirror for a column that suggested he was a hypocrite who "screwed" Britain by moving his company's headquarters to Singapore after supporting the U.K.'s breakup with the European Union.

A High Court judge in London said the article was opinion and rejected Dyson's claims it was a "vicious and vitriolic" personal attack that damaged his reputation and harmed his philanthropic work encouraging young people to become engineers.

Mirror columnist Brian Reade wrote Dyson had "championed Vote Leave due to the economic opportunities it would bring to British industry before moving his global head office to Singapore."

Dyson, 76, who is listed as the fifth-richest person in the U.K. by the Sunday Times, advocated in support of Brexit in 2016, arguing that it would create more wealth and jobs by being outside the EU.

In the column, Reade pretended to address children who had been encouraged to follow Dyson's example as an entrepreneur: "In other words kids, talk the talk but then screw your country and if anyone complains, tell them to suck it up."

The Mirror had argued the article was "honest opinion" and the judge agreed, adding Dyson had shown no financial loss from the article or impact on his philanthropic work.

"Mr Reade was not attempting to offer a window into or shine a light on the claimant's thought processes or motivation," Justice Robert Jay wrote. "Rather, the 'screwed his country etc.' remark was Mr. Reade's 'take' on how people would or might envisage the claimant's actions."

The judge said Reade hadn't accused Dyson of dishonesty and had wide latitude to offer honest comment "however wounding and unbalanced" it may have been.

Mirror Group Newspapers welcomed the judgment for upholding "the rights of our columnists to share honestly held opinions, even about powerful or wealthy individuals."

A Dyson spokesperson issued a statement defending its commitments to the U.K., including the employment of 3,700 people, but making no mention of the lawsuit outcome.