Christie's sells 'fake' vintage wine, claims billionaire

Leading experts, including Michael Broadbent, are named in New York court deposition

Allegations that Christie's auction house sold fake wine "over decades" have been made in a New York court.

The complaint has been lodged by an American billionaire industrialist, William Koch, and is the latest salvo in a three-year battle that has embroiled Christie's and the leading British wine expert Michael Broadbent, a former director of Christie's and auctioneer who also wrote sales literature.

Mr Broadbent has already won a libel action in the UK against the publisher Random House, which published Mr Koch's allegations in a book about the dispute. In an out of court settlement, Mr Broadbent accepted substantial damages, his legal costs and an apology and retraction of the defamatory allegations which was made on behalf of the publishers in open court.

Mr Koch bought four bottles of wine in 1988 from a German wine dealer, Hardy Rodenstock, reputed to have belonged to the third president of the US, Thomas Jefferson, for a total of $311,804 (£202,000 at today's rate of exchange). Mr Rodenstock claimed to have come into possession of a cache of wine engraved with the initials Th.J after it was discovered in a bricked-up Paris cellar in the 1980s.

In his latest complaint, filed with the New York District Court at the end of March, Mr Koch claims he bought the wine because Christie's had sold other bottles from the cache and its sales literature implied they were genuine. Now, however, he believes the wines were counterfeit.

In the complaint, against Christie's companies in London and New York, he claims that Christie's and Mr Broadbent sold the Jefferson bottles knowing there were doubts about their provenance, and that Christie's sold counterfeit wine "for years".

Last night Mr Broadbent, who is not being sued but is named in the complaint, denied the allegations which he described as "unspeakably offensive".

Mr Koch's complaint adds: "Even though Christie's is often aware of circumstances, communications and events which directly challenge the veracity and substance of its catalogs' detailed narratives, provenance and wine descriptions, it fails to include any mention of these adverse authenticity or provenance questions."

The complaint names Mr Broadbent, who wrote auction catalogues and auctioned the Jefferson wine, as party to this failure to pass on information.

Mr Koch's complaint says that he didn't discover his wine may be counterfeit until 2005 when he was asked for a photograph of his bottles for a catalogue for a Boston museum.

He contacted the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia to prove the provenance of the wine.

The foundation, known as Monticello, is the foremost authority on the former US president. The experts there revealed that they had been contacted by Christie's and Mr Broadbent before the wine was sold, but had found linking the wine to Jefferson "problematic".

Christie's denies the claims and said in a statement: "We intend vigorously to defend the case."

Mr Broadbent maintained last night that the bottles and the wine were of the period, and denied that he had withheld any doubts about the connection to Jefferson.

To view the full complaint, see www.nysd.uscourts.gov/pacer.php and look up case no 2010-cv-02804

Hardly a man to be messed with

William Koch (pronounced "coke") is a billionaire industrialist who lives in Palm Beach, Florida. He's also renowned as an art and wine collector, philanthropist and sailor – he was part of the winning America's Cup crew in 1992 after bankrolling the US entry – and is not, it seems, a man to be messed with. Born in 1940 in Wichita, Kansas, he is a son of Fred Koch, the founder of Koch Industries, one of the largest oil companies in America. Having inherited the business with his brothers in 1967 on their father's death, William was subsequently forced out in 1980 after trying to take over. He then sued his brothers, claiming that Koch Industries was engaged in "organised crime". In 1983 William Koch founded the Oxbow Group, which sells $600m worth of alternative energy each year.

In 1995, he filed a lawsuit against his former lover, the model and fashion journalist Catherine de Castelbajac, when she refused to move out of his $2.5m condominium at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering