Aspen Times settles lawsuit from Vladislav Doronin over “oligarch” label

The Aspen Times has reached a settlement agreement to end a defamation lawsuit brought in April by a Swedish billionaire who alleged the mountain newspaper had wrongly portrayed him as a corrupt Russian oligarch in several articles and columns.

Vladislav Doronin, who was born in the Soviet Union but left that country and renounced his citizenship in the mid-1980s, alleged that the Aspen Times wrongly portrayed his past dealings after he made a $76.25 million land purchase at the base of the Aspen Mountain ski resort.

The settlement was filed in U.S. District Court on May 27 and the lawsuit was dismissed. Terms were not disclosed.

Allison Pattillo, the Aspen Times’ publisher, wrote in a column Thursday that the newspaper’s parent company, Swift Communications LLC, “was able to address Doronin’s concerns out of court.”

The Times didn’t run a news story about the lawsuit, a decision Pattillo said she made with the paper’s attorney.

“From the outset, the thought was that this dispute could be resolved fairly and quickly, without going to court,” Pattillo wrote. “This was done out of good business sense, and most certainly not out of fear or intimidation. Reporting on the lawsuit could have unnecessarily disrupted or delayed resolution.”

The publisher did decline to publish two opinion columns during this period, she said, “because they were inadvertently related to aspects of the settlement discussions. While the connection was tangential, we chose to make a conservative decision so as not to delay resolution.”

Now that the lawsuit is done, Pattillo wrote, there will be no restrictions on the newspaper’s coverage of Doronin or his land purchase and development.

Neither Pattillo nor attorneys for Doronin could be reached Friday.

The town’s mayor, and even the paper’s interim editor, criticized the Aspen Times’ decision to avoid covering the suit.

“It’s come to my attention recently that the Aspen Times, under duress, has been withholding and suppressing some news stories that are important to our community,” Mayor Torre, who only goes by one name, said during a May 24 City Council meeting, Colorado media columnist Corey Hutchins reported. “I find that to be a real disservice to our community.”

Rick Carroll, the newspaper’s interim editor, said he “strenuously objected” to how the paper’s parent company handled the lawsuit, Hutchins wrote, a sentiment that members of the newsroom relayed to company management.

The lawsuit stemmed from a series of news stories and opinion pieces that criticized the sale of the controversial property.

The Aspen Times, in one March news story, initially referred to Doronin as an oligarch before later removing the reference.

A subsequent opinion piece compared the billionaire — who has Swedish citizenship and lives in Switzerland — to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, insinuating the pair might have worked with President Vladimir Putin.

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