October 13, 2009
Wine connoisseur toasts victory
Libel action re record-breaking 1985 Christie's wine auction concludes
The internationally renowned wine connoisseur and former head of Christie’s wine department, Michael Broadbent, has succeeded in his claim against the publisher Random House.
He sued in regard to the publication of The Billionaire’s Vinegar, which chronicled the events surrounding the famous auction by Christie’s in 1985 of a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite said to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. It sold for US$156,000 to the US billionaire Malcolm Forbes. The price paid broke all records by a huge margin. Mr Broadbent was the auctioneer.
The book questioned the provenance of a cache of wine said to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson, which included the one auctioned in 1985. In doing so the book wrongly alleged that Mr Broadbent had behaved unprofessionally in the manner in which he had auctioned some of the Jefferson bottles and and that his relationship with Hardy Rodenstock, who discovered the Jefferson cache, was suspected of being improper.
Random House today, six months after the issue of the Claim Form, accepted via a statement in open court that the defamatory allegations made in the book about Mr Broadbent were without foundation.