Koch sues Acker Merrall

  • Friday 25 April 2008

Billionaire Florida collector William Koch is suing Acker Merrall & Condit for fraud.

A case filed on 23 April in New York State Supreme Court charges the Manhattan auction house and retailer with misrepresentation in fine and rare wines Koch bought at auction for a total of $77,925 (£39,242).

Koch said experts hired in 2007 to examine his cellar found that at least five bottles bought from Acker 'are counterfeit or likely counterfeit' and that others 'are suspect, requiring further research.' Koch has also filed several lawsuits associated with the ‘Jefferson bottles’, including one with German dealer Hardy Rodenstock.

In his newest lawsuit, Koch says that in 2005 and 2006 he bought wines purported to be a 1949 Lafleur, 1947 Pétrus, 1945 Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vielles Vignes and two 1934 Romanée-Contis from Domine de la Romanée-Conti. If authentic, Koch said they 'would be worth approximately $107,000 today.'

Koch has asked the court to issue 'an injunction restraining Acker from selling any bottle of wine of any vintage before 1962 without first obtaining the opinion of a qualified expert that such bottles does not bear' indications 'of being counterfeit.'

John Kapon, Acker's president and auction director, said that Acker would be conciliatory.

'We go to extreme lengths to try and make sure that every bottle of wine that we sell is as described,' Kapon told decanter.com. 'We are constantly training and retraining ourselves in an attempt to spot counterfeit wines.'

'All the wines we represent come from reputable cellars. If we sold wine to Bill Koch that he believes to be counterfeit, then we clearly believed it to be authentic and as described.'

Kapon said that if any buyer was uncomfortable about the authenticity of a wine purchased from Acker, the company would take it back.

'If a few fraudulent bottles out of hundreds purchased went undetected, then we stand ready to return Mr Koch's, or any purchaser's, money,' he said.

'There is no way that we would ever willingly or knowingly sell fake wine. We look forward to rectifying the situation with Mr Koch and doing whatever we can to help eliminate fraudulent wines from the marketplace.'

Koch asked that Acker pay damages of not less than $107,000 (£53,916) as well as punitive damages that would be determined at trial.

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