Russian Commodities Assets Dispute

Bell Yard was appointed as litigation PR specialists to support the existing corporate PR agency of a Russian commodity company and its high profile CEO, during its defence of a long-running London-based dispute over Russian assets. It was then one of largest ever commercial litigations to be heard in a British court.

The case had all the hallmarks that usually attract media headlines. It lifted the lid on the lawlessness and violence of the natural resources wars in the post-USSR era. Some 70 witnesses were due to participate, some anonymously, and the claimant by video for fear of arrest were he to step foot in the UK. The claimant was also alleging intimidation and fears for his safety, suggestions of which the defendant hotly disputed.

The PR battle was certainly as intense as the legal fight, which itself had been going on for some time before Bell Yard was appointed. We worked with both the defendant legal team and its existing PRs with assiduous PR planning of storylines, target media and media briefings ahead of trial.

The UK and international media were equally as important given the global empires and reputations of the characters involved and their myriad of stakeholders.

An unexpected out-of-court settlement occurred after the opening of trial, when the skeleton arguments were officially in the public domain. A little-known reference to an overseas judgment proved toxic & difficult to counter at the 11th hour with no pre-warning, which simply underlined need for close cooperation between lawyer, client and PR, from the earliest possible time in any litigation.

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