Billionaire Faces Setback in Lawsuit Over Thomas Jefferson’s Wine


Eccentric billionaire William Ingraham “Bill” Koch thought he was making a smart investment when he purchased four bottles of red wine in 1987 -88 from wine dealer Hardy Rodenstock. The transaction, which was conducted via reputed intercessors at Christie’s, with supervision by Michael Broadbent, the auction house’s head of the wine department. The bottles in question were thought to be highly covetable, as they dated from 1787 and were said to belong to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd US President, was a known wine enthusiast.

However, in 2000, reports indicated that the bottles might never have been owned by the founding father. Koch began a private investigation into the matter in 2005, and in 2010 filed a suit alleging that he had been duped into the purchase since the origin of the bottles had been misrepresented. However, as Reuters has reported, Koch’s bid for compensation was thwarted on October 4th, when the New York Federal Appeals Court ruled that his efforts were too little, too late. The court ruled that Koch had not completed adequate research in a timely fashion when concerns of the wine’s origins were originally raised in 2000. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the previous dismissal of the case by U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones.

Despite that ruling, this is not the end of the story. Koch, whose net worth is estimated at $4 billion, has filed a separate lawsuit against Rodenstock for damages due to fraud. So far, a New York magistrate recommended that Rodenstock pay $600,000 in fines. Judge Jones, who is also overseeing this lawsuit, has not yet determined her ruling.

Source courtesy Reuters.

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