BRISBANE, Australia – West Indies opener Chris Gayle has hired a high-profile defamation lawyer to take legal action against Fairfax Media following publication of a report claiming he exposed himself to an unnamed woman in a team dressing room.
Mark O’Brien, who only last July won a case against Fairfax and forced them to pay $200,000 in damages to former Treasurer Joe Hockey, is representing Gayle and renowned as being one of the toughest and most aggressive defamation lawyers in the country.
Those close to Gayle say he is seething over the news report and will pursue the case vigorously.
O’Brien has previously represented heavyweights Alan Jones, Kerry Packer and Rene Rivkin in high-profile cases while also representing Publishing and Broadcasting Limited and the Australian Rugby League during the Super League war.
O’Brien’s most recent run-in with Fairfax Media was on behalf of Hockey and resulted in the media company being forced to pay the $200,000 in damages last July after publishing a controversial story under the headline “Treasurer for sale”, which falsely suggested Hockey was engaging in improper conduct.
However, it was also reported that Hockey lost out overall because his legal bills were estimated to be around $500,000, giving an indication of how much O’Brien’s legal expertise costs.
Considering Cricket Australia will stop Gayle from partaking in future BBL tournaments due to his behaviour, the West Indian batsman now has few bridges left to burn and is expected to pursue the matter to its end.
The key man in potentially verifying or discrediting the claims made in the Fairfax Media article is West Indian team manager Sir Richie Richardson.
Reports suggest Richardson sent an email around to West Indian players at the time warning them about inappropriate behaviour after an incident was allegedly raised with him.
However, the added complication in any investigation taking place is the fact that yesterday was virtually Richardson’s last day on the job in West Indies’ colours.
The former great is taking up a position as an ICC match referee and his first assignment looks set to be the one-day series in South Africa when the Proteas take on England.
Richardson and Windies’ management are under strict instructions not to talk about the Gayle matter and if any statement was to be made, it would be coming from home base in the Caribbean.
It’s unclear what impact, if any, Richardson’s departure to the ICC will have on any WICB investigation.
The ICC are refusing to investigate the claims, despite them allegedly taking place in the lead-up to their own World Cup tournament in Sydney.
At this stage, Gayle is still due to play for the Melbourne Renegades in their clash with the Stars at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
Those close to Gayle are confident he will see out the rest of the season with the Renegades.
The besieged Renegades went to ground yesterday, with chairman Jason Dunstall refusing to comment about chief executive Stuart Coventry’s predicament.
Coventry was quoted in a report suggesting the woman who made allegations against Gayle was being “opportunistic” in coming forward.
The remark infuriated Cricket Australia, particularly given the CEO had previously made a couple of gaffes in his original press conference on Tuesday when talking about Gayle’s behaviour towards Ten reporter Mel McLaughlin.