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William Koch wins fraud suit over fake wine

Billionaire says that he is “marching down [a] hit list of fakers” who sell counterfeit bottles

Billionaire businessman William Koch got a little bit richer on Tuesday, after a federal jury ruled that his lawsuit against a wine consigner wasn’t just sour grapes.

Koch accused Eric Greenberg, the founder of several tech companies, of selling him 24 bottles of counterfeit wine at a 2005 Zachys auction. The billionaire paid $320,000 for the bottles, which included a supposedly authentic 1864 Chateau Latour costing $14,160, two 1950 Chateau petrus magums priced at $20,060 each and a 1921 Chateau petrus magnum that sold for $29,500.

According to the suit, Greenberg billed his collection as “the Best of the Best,” even though he knew that it was fake—and that two other auctions houses had rejected the bottles because they could not be authenticated. A jury agreed, awarding Koch the amount he paid for the wine, plus $1,000 in compensatory damages for each bottle.

Greenberg denied that he knowingly sent counterfeit bottles to the auction house, saying that he relied on Zachys experts to authenticate the wine before auctioning it off. (Koch brought a separate suit against the auction house, which was settled for an undisclosed amount).

But Koch says that his victory is an indication of a rampant counterfeiting problem in the wine industry. “This is just the first step to hold Mr. Greenberg accountable,” Koch said, according to Bloomberg. “Millions if not tens or hundreds of millions of counterfeit wines are sold every year…To me the whole industry is corrupt.”

Koch himself fell victim to another alleged wine fraud when he bought four bottles of wine that had supposedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson at a Christie’s auction, only to discover that they likely weren’t authentic. Koch later successfully sued German wine dealer Hardy Rodenstock, who had consigned the alcohol for auction

For more alcohol-related suits on InsideCounsel, see:

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Billionaire may have waited too long to sue over Thomas Jefferson’s wine

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Alanna Byrne

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