The president of Mobil Oil Corporation and his son yesterday filed a $50 million libel and slander suit against The Washington Post Company in U.S. District Court in Washington in connection with two articles that were published in The Post in late 1979.
William P. Tavoulareas, the president of Mobil Oil, and his son Peter W. Tavoulareas, contend in the lawsuit that The Post articles caused them to be subject to "public disgrace, scorn and ridicule" and damaged their businesses and reputations.
The lawsuit cited portions of the articles, written by Post reporter Patrick Tyler, which said that William Tavoulareas set up his son as a partner in a shipping management firm which then obtained business from Mobil. pThe lawsuit also cited portions of one of the articles which discussed statements William Tavoulareas made to federal investigators who questioned him in 1977 about his involvement in the shipping management firm.
The lawsuit contends that the articles were published to deliberately harm Tavoulareas and his son and induce "evil opinions" of both men in the minds of Post readers and others who learned about the articles.
Washington Post counsel Bo Jones said yesterday that he had no comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also contends that the articles were libelous because they were intended to mean that William Tavoulareas committed wrongful acts as an officer of Mobil and that Peter Tavoulareas had received improper assistance from his father in connection with Mobil assets. In addition to the Post Company, the lawsuit also names as defendants Katharine Graham, chairman of the board of The Post Company; Post executive editor Benjamin Bradlee, Robert Woodward, assistant managing editor for metropolitan news; Tyler and Post special correspondent Sandy Golden.
The case has been assigned to Judge Oliver Gasch.