By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(LONDON) — A leading paparazzi agency announced Wednesday that it will file for bankruptcy, and cited a legal battle with Duchess Meghan as one of the major reasons for its financial demise.
Splash News and Picture Agency, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, said in a statement that the U.K.-based agency’s ongoing legal battle with Meghan places “an unacceptable risk to the survival of the business.”
“If the legal action were to be successful, Splash would be liable to pay [Meghan’s] legal bills, which are sizable,” the statement read, in part. “Having tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with the duchess, this places an unacceptable risk to the survival of the business.”
Meghan sued Splash News for breach of privacy over photos taken of her and her then 8-month-old son Archie on Vancouver Island in February 2020.
Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, and Archie were living in Canada at the time after announcing their decision to step down as senior, working members of Britain’s royal family.
In December, Splash News agreed not to take pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Archie, part of a settlement reached after Meghan’s lawyers filed a claim alleging Splash UK breached her privacy and data protection rights.
Harry and Meghan have continued on with a similar claim in the British court system against Splash US, a sister company to Splash UK. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for March 29.
The legal battles against Splash News mark the latest chapter in Harry and Meghan’s crusade against the tabloids.
Last month, a U.K. judge ruled that Associated Newspapers Ltd., publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, invaded Meghan’s privacy by publishing large parts of the personal letter she sent to her now-estranged father Thomas Markle before her 2018 wedding to Prince Harry.
Harry also in February won “significant damages,” according to his spokesperson, in his libel case against Associated Newspapers Ltd., after the Mail on Sunday quoted a top British general in a story as saying Harry was not taking his military responsibilities seriously.
Harry’s libel claim against Associated Newspapers Ltd., is one of six lawsuits Harry and Meghan have launched since Harry made an impassioned statement against the tabloid press at the end of their 2019 tour in South Africa, in which he accused the British tabloid press of waging “a ruthless campaign” against his wife.
“For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start,” Harry said in his statement at the time. “I have been a silent witness to [Meghan’s] private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.”
Harry and Meghan, who now live in California and are expecting their second child, spoke out about the intense media scrutiny they have received and accused British tabloids of racist coverage in their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this month.
“From the beginning of our relationship they were so attacking and inciting so much racism really,” Meghan told Winfrey. “It changed the risk level.”
Harry spoke to Winfrey about fearing for his wife’s safety after experiencing the death of his mom, Princess Diana, in 1997. Diana, who was divorced from Prince Charles at the time, died after a car crash in Paris while being pursued by paparazzi.
“And for me, I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you, with my wife by my side,” he said. “Because I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for [Princess Diana], going through this process by herself, all those years ago, because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other.”
Omid Scobie, ABC News royal contributor and co-author of Finding Freedom, a book about Harry and Meghan’s split from the royal family, said the couple are trying to create a “safer environment” for their children in the United States.
“There are definitely quiet celebrations going on between the Sussexes,” he said. “They really wanted to create a safer environment to raise their family in the U.S. and being able to eliminate some of the threats of the paparazzi will certainly create that environment that they’re looking to build.”
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