‘Big Brother’ creator sues Facebook over fake Bitcoin adverts

In our latest billionaires round-up, Dutch media tycoon John de Mol seeks damages in court while an American investor gets in trouble on the basketball court

FILE PHOTO: Producer John de Mol of NBC's reality series "The Voice" poses backstage with his award for Outstanding Reality Program at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

John de Mol

John de Mol, the Dutch billionaire founder of reality-TV hit Big Brother, is suing Facebook for allowing fake advertisements on its platform which used his name and image to perpetrate Bitcoin-related fraud.

Lawyers for Mr de Mol told an Amsterdam District Court judge earlier this month that the company had failed to prevent the adverts and had not responded in a timely fashion to complaints.

The ads, which have now been removed, enticed people to send money to purchase Bitcoin or participate in fake cryptocurrency-related businesses with claims of Mr de Mol's involvement, endorsement or backing. Mr de Mol's lawyers want the court to order Facebook to fix its procedures to automatically block ads featuring Mr de Mol and cryptocurrency, which they say have caused him reputational damage.

Facebook lawyer Jens van den Brink said the company could not be forced to monitor all ads on its platforms at all times, and the company had removed the ads in question quickly after being made aware of complaints. Mr van den Brink also said Facebook had met with the Dutch financial markets regulator AFM earlier this week to discuss ways to combat scammers.

Lawyers for Mr de Mol said that consumers had been swindled out of 1.7 million euros (Dh7.1m) by the ads linked to him, and that he was only one of several Dutch celebrities targeted.

Mr de Mol also sought guarantees Facebook would hand over information about the people who create such ads so it could be given to the police.

Known for creating the original Dutch versions of Big Brother and The Voice, Mr de Mol has an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion (Dh6.6bn), according to Forbes. The 64-year-old, who founded his own production company and television station in the Netherlands, also produced Deal or No Deal and Fear Factor.

Mark Stevens

American venture capitalist Mark Stevens, who owns a stake in the Golden State Warriors basketball team, was fined $500,000 from the National Basketball Association earlier this month and handed a one-year ban after he shoved an opponent during a game.

Mr Stevens was ejected from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California during game three of the NBA finals after he verbally assaulted and initiated a physical altercation with Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors from his courtside seat.

The NBA announced its decision one day after the incident, not long after Mr Lowry said Mr Stevens, who is also a member of the Golden State Warriors team’s executive board, “shouldn’t be a part of our league”.

"Mr Stevens' behaviour last night did not reflect the high standard that we hope to exemplify as an organisation," the Warriors said in a release. "We're extremely disappointed in his actions and, along with Mr Stevens, offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organisation for this unfortunate misconduct."

Mr Lowry dove into a row of courtside seats in an effort to save a loose ball. Mr Stevens, wearing an NBA-issued credential, was seated about two spots away from where Mr Lowry landed. Mr Stevens shoved Mr Lowry in the upper body, and Mr Lowry said he repeated a vulgar phrase to him about four times during the brief incident.

Mr Stevens said he accepted the punishment from the NBA.

"I made a mistake and I'm truly sorry," Mr Stevens said. "I need to be better and look forward to making it right."

It is unclear if the Warriors will allow him to remain part of the organisation. The team's media guide lists the Silicon Valley billionaire, who is a partner at Sequoia Capital, as a member of the six-person executive board.

Some NBA players and sports commentators have said that the punishment is not enough. Tim Dahlberg, a sports columnist for The Associated Press, wrote in an opinion piece: “Make the suspension indefinite. Force Stevens to sell his stake in the Warriors.”

Forbes reported that Mr Stevens owns an estimated 8 per cent stake in the team, which could mean a profit of roughly $180m if he is forced to sell his shares. Mr Stevens is worth $2.4bn, according to the magazine.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 15, 2019 Michael Bloomberg arrives to the opening celebration of the Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island at the Statue Cruises Terminal in Battery Park in New York. US billionaire Michael Bloomberg pledged half a billion dollars on June 7, 2019 to fight climate change, saying "our lives and our children's lives depend on it." / AFP / Afp / KENA BETANCUR

Michael Bloomberg

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is plunging $500m into an effort to close all of the nation's remaining coal plants by 2030 and put the United States on track towards a 100 per cent clean energy economy.

Mr Bloomberg's investment in the Beyond Carbon initiative marks the largest ever philanthropic effort to combat climate change, according to the Bloomberg Philanthropies foundation. The organisation will bypass the federal government and instead seek to pass climate and clean energy policies, as well as back political candidates, at the state and local level.

"We're in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years. Mother Nature is not waiting on our political calendar, and neither can we," Mr Bloomberg said earlier this month.

Mr Bloomberg considered but ultimately passed on seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Instead, he vowed to point his vast wealth and political connections towards fighting climate change and defeating President Donald Trump.

The climate initiative mirrors Mr Bloomberg's work on gun control, which has focused on bolstering state and local efforts. The former mayor's financial contributions to Democratic candidates who backed stricter gun laws was also considered integral to the party's ability to retake the House in 2018.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has spent several years working with the Sierra Club to seek the closure of the nation's coal plants. Since 2011, about half of the 530 plants across the US have been closed.

Mr Bloomberg has a net worth of $57.2bn, according to Forbes, placing him among the 10 richest people in the world. He co-founded financial information and media company Bloomberg in 1981 and now owns 88 per cent of the business.

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett, who once called Bitcoin “probably rat poison square,” will now have to dine with one of the cryptocurrency’s biggest fans.

Cryptocurrency pioneer Justin Sun bid the record $4.57m at a charity auction earlier this month to have lunch with Mr Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

Mr Sun’s winning bid in the five-day online auction on eBay was confirmed by the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco charity that helps the homeless.

The 28-year-old can invite up to seven people to dine with Mr Buffett, 88, at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.

"I'm delighted with the fact that Justin has won the lunch and am looking forward to meeting him and his friends," Mr Buffett said in a statement provided by his assistant. "We are going to have a good time and Glide will use his contribution to help many thousands of people."

Mr Buffett has raised about $34.2m for Glide in 20 annual auctions since 2000. His first wife, Susan, who died in 2004, introduced him to Glide after volunteering there.

Mr Sun launched Tron or TRX token in 2017, and raised about $70m in an initial coin offering. He bought San Francisco-based BitTorrent for $120m in cash last year.

In Twitter posts, Mr Sun said he plans to invite industry leaders from the blockchain community to dine with Mr Buffett, who he called "a titan of investment. I hope this benefits everyone".

Mr Buffett, who is fourth on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $85bn, has run Berkshire since 1965. The Nebraska-based conglomerate owns more than 90 businesses and invests in stocks such as Apple and Coca-Cola.