Have you ever felt compelled to punch a business rival whilst appearing on a speaking panel because he or she intimated that they were going to hit you first?
If you have, you are not alone.
Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard newspaper, knocked property developer Sergei Polonsky from a chair as both men appeared on Russian tv station NTV’s show back in 2011.
The show which was recorded in Moscow, bore witness to Polonsky making jibes at fellow pundits and gesturing at Lebedev before saying: “I’m already worn out from the desire to give [him] a punch in the chops,” to which Mr. Lebedev replied: “Well, try it” in response and sprang to his feet in a fight pose.
After being persuaded by the host to retake his seat, Mr. Lebedev then swung at Mr. Polonsky from a sitting position and hit him in the face as the latter began to criticise him further.
After receiving a second blow which did not connect as cleanly as the first one, the property developer was sent tumbling to the floor as Mr. Lebedev advanced across the stage in a hunched pose and said to Mr. Polonsky: “Go on then, or are you waiting for me to take off my glasses?”
There were gasps of shock from the audience in attendance as the host called for security guards whilst the two billionaires faced each other down. Polonsky, the former owner of a large developing company did not respond for some moments before mumbling whilst looking rather crestfallen: “I’m in shock,” before both men were persuaded to calm down.
Both men subsequently commented on social media about the fracas and Polonsky posted a picture of his scratched arm and the seat of his jeans which had a tear in them.
“NTV has promised to give a full copy of the programme for a court action,” Polonsky wrote in a Twitter post. “How disgusting and repulsive it all is.”
Mr. Lebedev, who had served as an officer in the KGB and Russia’s foreign intelligence service back in the 1980s, subsequently played down the incident in interviews with local media.
He described how he had asked Mr. Polonsky to confirm whom he wanted to punch: “I said, ‘Do you mean me?’ He replied, yes. After which I neatly neutralised that absolutely unfounded threat.”
Lebedev also stated that Polonsky had “behaved like a street hooligan”, been rude to several guests and conducted himself with “real aggression” during the recording of the show.
“I grew up in Soviet Moscow and unfortunately, as a youth, took part in many such incidents,” he later wrote in a blog post and said that normally you don’t get a warning when somebody is about to hit you.
“In a critical situation, you don’t choose: I don’t see any reason to get hit first if you know it’s coming.”
Lebedev then went on to add: “Now he’s showing his ripped trousers, which is rather difficult to comment on. He got it in the face, but he holds up trousers with a hole in the backside. Strange.”
Have a look at the clip below and ask yourself if you would thump someone in the face for threatening to hit you whilst you both discuss industry matters at a trade conference speaking panel. It’s fair to say that you might have to sit on separate tables for the gala dinner afterwards.