New York, Apr 12: A U.S. billionaire said he planned to drink a glass of wine to celebrate a jury's conclusion that he was defrauded by a businessman who sold him two dozen bottles of fake vintage wine at a 2005 auction. And he promised his crusade against fake wine would continue.
“It's a home run!” William Koch told a supporter immediately after the jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan awarded him $380,000 in compensatory damages for the counterfeit bottles of Bordeaux, which had been labeled as if they were created from 1864 to 1950.
Koch paid $29,500 for the most expensive bottle, a 1921 magnum bottle of Chateau Petrus.
The jury returns Friday to decide if punitive damages are warranted.
Koch, a yachtsman who won the America's Cup in 1992, had accused Eric Greenberg of fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, deceptive business practices and false advertising.
Greenberg only shook his head when asked to comment.
For Koch, the jury verdict was part of a crusade against counterfeit wine sellers that he promised would continue. On the witness stand, he said that in 1988 he paid $400,000 for four bottles of French wine he falsely believed had been owned by Thomas Jefferson.
“To me, the whole industry is being corrupted,” he said, recounting how his investigators had helped put one wine seller in jail and forced a judgment against another. “I absolutely can't stand being cheated.”
“Now we have this faker,” he said, referring to Greenberg. “We're moving down our hit list of fakers. This is just a start.”
Koch, 72, testified during the trial that he has mostly stopped buying wines at auction because he no longer trusted the market.
Greenberg—a former billionaire who built two Internet consulting companies before the 2000 collapse of those stocks reportedly reduced his net worth by as much as 90 percent—had insisted on the witness stand that he never intentionally sold a bad bottle of wine.
“I wouldn't sell a fake wine,” he said. “I've never intentionally sold fake wine in my life.”
Koch spent $3.7 million at the 2005 auction, buying 2,600 bottles of wine. He paid someone more than $75,000 daily for two days to make his bids, though he decided before the sale not to inspect the wines he eventually bought.