Koch wins fake wine lawsuit12th April, 2013 by Lucy Shaw
US billionaire wine collector Bill Koch has won a legal victory over internet entrepreneur Eric Greenberg in a lawsuit over 24 fake bottles of wine.
It took the eight-person jury in a New York federal court just two hours to reach their verdict in favour of Koch yesterday.
Greenberg was found guilty of fraud, making materially misleading representations and false advertising.
As a result, Koch will receive damages of $379,000 to cover the cost of his purchases plus $1,000 per bottle of wine.
The jury will convene again today to decide if Koch should also be awarded punitive damages.
A jubilant Koch left court yesterday with his lawyers saying his next stop was dinner at French fine dining restaurant Daniel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“There was a code of silence in this bloody wine business, and now it’s been broken,” Koch told reporters.
“Now we got one faker so we’re marching down our hit list of fakers. This is just a start.
“I’m thirsty, I want a glass of wine, and if it’s not a good bottle, I’m going to sue them,” he added with a smile.
Koch sued US businessman and fellow wine collector Eric Greenberg over a batch of bottles he bought from him for $3.7m at a Zachys auction in 2005.
Among the bottles were Château Latour 1864 bought for $14,160, several bottles of Cheval Blanc 1921 and a magnum of Pétrus 1921 bought for $29,500.
Koch snapped up 2,669 bottles from Greenberg’s cellar at the auction and launched legal proceedings against him in 2007 after discovering 24 of them were fake.
During the three-week trial, Koch testified that Greenberg falsely promoted the collection as “the Best of the Best,” claiming that some bottles dated back to the Belle Epoque and others belonged to English royalty.
Greenberg’s lawyer, Arthur Shartsis, said Koch’s case was simply “sour grapes” and that his client had never knowingly sold a legally questionable wine.
“Mr Greenberg didn’t believe those bottles were fake,” he said in his closing argument to the jury, shifting the blame to Zachys, which held the auction. “Zachys had complete responsibility. Somebody made a mistake,” he said.
After the verdict, Greenberg left the courtroom silently and without comment.
The win marks Koch’s first major victory in his plight to expose fake wine sales by collectors, auction houses and retailers.
Seemingly unmotivated by financial gain, the billionaire has ploughed millions into multiple lawsuits, with the Greenberg case costing $10m alone.
“It is a pathetic thing that two wealthy people are sitting in court wasting taxpayer resources,” Greenberg said when he took the stand during the trial.
Koch’s next opponent is alleged counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, though the lawsuit has been out on hold until the end of Kurniawan’s current trail for several counts of fraud, set to start on 9 September.