| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 4 A billionaire's lawsuit over
wine said to be owned by Thomas Jefferson has died on the vine.
A federal appeals court in New York ruled on Thursday that
William Koch, the founder of Oxbow Group energy company, had
waited too long to file a lawsuit against Christie's auction
Koch, a brother of businessmen and conservative political
activists Charles and David Koch, had accused Christie's of
rubber stamping as authentic a cache of wine said to have been
owned by the third U.S. president, while knowing it was
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Koch failed
to conduct timely due diligence when doubts were first raised
about the wine's authenticity.
Koch bought four bottles of red wine in 1987 and 1988 that
was said to be from 1787 and with the letters "Th.J." etched in
the glass. Jefferson was a wine aficionado and served as an
envoy to France in the late 18th century. The wines at issue
were purported to have been discovered in Paris.
But starting in 2000, reports surfaced that cast doubt on
the origin of the bottles, clues that "would suggest to a
reasonably intelligent person that the wine was not authentic,"
the appeals court wrote.
Yet Koch waited until 2005 to begin his investigation into
the wine's origin, the court said. Koch's claim, the court
concluded, "is therefore time-barred."
Koch purchased the wine from dealer Hardy Rodenstock through
intermediaries. In his lawsuit, filed in 2010, Koch contended
that Rodenstock and the longtime head of Christie's wine
department, Michael Broadbent, were associates in the purported
Koch, whose worth is about $4 billion according to Forbes
magazine, said Christie's had agreed to promote Rodenstock's
reputation and sell his wines. His lawsuit also said Christie's
had lobbied Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia home, to vouch for
The appeals court ruling upheld the dismissal of the case by
U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones.
Maura Grinalds, a lawyer for Christie's, did not immediately
return a call for comment on the ruling.
Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Koch, repeated the wine
collector's allegation that the auction house conspired to sell
fake wine. "They got away with it," Goldstein said. "They
escaped on a technicality and their behavior warrants closer
Meanwhile, Koch has been pursuing a lawsuit against
Rodenstock. In May, a magistrate judge recommended that
Rodenstock be fined over $600,000 in damages. Judge Jones, who
is overseeing this case, has yet to decide whether to adopt the
The case is William I. Koch v Christie's International Inc
in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals No. 11-1522.
(Reporting By Basil Katz; Editing by Martha Graybow and Philip