Broadbent to sue over Billionaire’s Vinegar

  • Monday 27 July 2009

Michael Broadbent is suing the publishers of The Billionaire’s Vinegar for defamation of character.

Michael Broadbent

The Billionaire’s Vinegar, by Benjamin Wallace, is an account of the ‘Jefferson bottles affair’, and its attendant court cases, which has captivated the wine world for years.

Broadbent, the veteran former director of Christie's, and the longstanding Decanter columnist, is suing for libel in the UK because the book is available here although it is published by Random House in the US.

At the heart of the case is a cache of more than a dozen 18th-century bottles apparently found in a walled-up basement in Paris in 1985 by German collector Hardy Rodenstock.

Some of these, including the now-notorious bottle of 1787 Lafite, were engraved Th:J. According to Rodenstock they were bought by Thomas Jefferson when he was ambassador to Paris.

Three of the bottles were sold at Christie's between 1985 and 1987: the 1787 Lafite, a 1784 Château d'Yquem, and a half-bottle of 1784 Château Margaux.

Malcolm Forbes, the late publisher, paid US$156,450 for the 1787 Lafite in the 1985 auction, a single-bottle auction record that remains unsurpassed.

Another billionaire businessman, William Koch, is suing Rodenstock, claiming that he was the source of four allegedly fake Jefferson bottles that Koch bought in 1988.

Broadbent is now suing Random House for defamation. Broadbent says Wallace accuses him of inventing a bid for the half-bottle of 1784 Margaux, to ensure that the final buyer paid over the odds.

He also says there are references in the book to him ‘colluding’ with Rodenstock, all of which he claims are quite false.

‘The book is full of inaccuracies and libel,’ he told decanter.com. ‘This is very damaging, claiming I have lost my grip.’

Sarah Webb, Michael Broadbent’s lawyer, said, ‘the book contains serious defamatory allegations about my client, alleging fraud and dishonesty. We expect the matter to be in court next year.’

According the Daily Mail, Random House said it doesn’t believe it has defamed Broadbent and will defend the lawsuit.

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