wine-oh no

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Expensive Lawsuit Over Cheap Rosé, Explained

Try it for yourself. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic and Michel Gangne/AFP via Getty Images

On February 17, 2022, Brad Pitt sued Angelina Jolie over their once jointly owned idyllic vineyard in the South of France. They purchased a controlling interest in this vineyard, Château Miraval, in 2008. The 1,200-acre estate is located “along an ancient Roman road and contains multiple structures from the 17th century,” according to People. What was once a roséy side hustle is now their latest in a slew of legal disputes against one another since their 2016 divorce. The famous exes are locked in a battle over Jolie selling her portion of the property without Pitt’s approval. In Pitt’s civil complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, he claims they had previously agreed not to sell their shares without getting approval from the other to do so.

The suit has since devolved from an acrimonious business conflict into a sort of international mudslinging contest. Pitt claims that Jolie, a renowned human-rights activist, has handed over her shares to a purported Russian oligarch named Yuri Shefler in an invalid transaction. Pitt insists the alleged transaction harms the brand following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. Now, Jolie’s sort of responding to her ex’s salty suit. Her former company filed a $250 million cross-complaint alleging that Pitt wanted to get control over their company as payback for their split and child-custody fight and linked his behavior spiraling out of control to his drinking habits.     

Here, what you need to know about the legal drama surrounding France’s most chaotic château.

What’s the deal with this vineyard? 
Pitt claims that he and Jolie bought a controlling interest in a company called Château Miraval, S.A. in 2008. This company was composed of a “home and vineyard in the South of France.” Although it’s a business, Miraval seemed to hold sentimental value for the actor. “Pitt and Jolie purchased the château as a home to share with their children and the vineyard as a family business,” his lawsuit said. “They agreed they would never sell their respective interests in Miraval without the other’s consent. The couple spent the holidays at Miraval with their children.” Pitt and Jolie even wed there in 2014. Pitt alleges that he wound up being far more involved in Miraval than Jolie. “The vineyard became Pitt’s passion — and a profitable one, as Miraval, under Pitt’s stewardship, has grown into a multimillion-dollar global business and one of the world’s most highly regarded producers of rosé wine,” the lawsuit says. Pitt contends that “Jolie, meanwhile, contributed nothing to Miraval’s success.” Instead, Jolie let Pitt “pour money and sweat equity into the business in reliance on the consent right she owed him and a right of first refusal her business entity owed his.” When Jolie unloaded her shares to Shefler, she carried out these “unlawful” dealings in secret, Pitt claims, forcing him into a corner. Not only is Shefler’s rep tainted by his purported links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, he is also trying to oust Pitt by engaging in business tactics that allegedly destabilize the winery, the actor alleges. Pitt also alleges that Shefler “made various threats” against him, according to court papers.

So, Pitt feels like he did all the work, but they’re split up now — why does he care if she sells her shares? 
Pitt maintains that they both agreed not to sell their respective holdings without the other’s okay. When Jolie unloaded her share in Miraval last October, she ignored that agreement, Pitt alleges. Moreover, Jolie sold her interest in Miraval to Tenute del Mondo, a company with allegedly questionable ties, Pitt claims. His suit describes Tenute del Mondo as a “hostile third-party competitor” bent on taking control of Miraval. “The purported sale breaches the agreement between Jolie and Pitt that formed the foundation of the couple’s investment in Miraval. The purported sale violates the contractual expectations of Pitt and Jolie, and entities they own, established through the 14 years since they bought Miraval,” his suit claims. “The purported sale deprives Pitt of his right to enjoy the home he established for his family and to oversee the business he developed from scratch.” Remember, though: Pitt is arguing that the sale isn’t valid, hence his couching the transaction as “purported.”

Then there’s the Russia discourse. Tenute del Mondo “is indirectly owned and controlled by Yuri Shefler — the Russian billionaire who controls the Stoli Group and whose flagship Russian vodka, Stolichnaya, has been the object of boycotts throughout the world,” Pitt’s suit says. “The U.S. Treasury Department designated Shefler as an ‘oligarch in the Russian Federation.’” Jolie allegedly “pursued and then consummated the purported sale in secret, purposely keeping Pitt in the dark, and knowingly violating Pitt’s contractual rights.” In doing this, Jolie “sought to seize profits she had not earned and returns on an investment she did not make [and] also through the purported sale, Jolie sought to inflict harm on Pitt,” his suit alleges.

Why can’t Pitt and the reported oligarch just get along? 
Pitt claims that after Shefler claimed to get Jolie’s stake in Miraval, he “has launched a hostile takeover of the wine business, destabilizing Miraval’s operations and seeking access to Miraval’s confidential and proprietary information for the benefit of his competing enterprise.” Meanwhile, “Miraval’s association with Shefler — who has gained notoriety through cutthroat business tactics and dubious professional associations — jeopardizes the reputation of the brand Pitt so carefully built,” Pitt alleges. He claims that Jolie “sought to force Pitt into partnership with a stranger, and worse yet, a stranger with poisonous associations and intentions.”

Pitt’s suit contends that Shefler and one of his associates “have repeatedly threatened retributive action” against him and the business via text messages. According to Pitt’s suit, Shefler and his company have long wanted into the winery and “seized on news of Pitt and Jolie’s September 2016 divorce filing to make a bid for the property.” Pitt says that the company, with Shefler’s backing, officially offered €60 million for Château Miraval and “also offered a bizarre sweetener for Pitt: a €50 million private jet on ‘very attractive terms.’” The winery declined. Shefler allegedly expressed interest in Miraval again in May 2021. Officials from Shefler’s business and Miraval had a meeting. “Following this meeting, Pitt confirmed that he had no interest in a deal with Shefler,” his suit says. Pitt contends that if Jolie had ever asked him whether he’d consent to her deal with Shefler, he would have said no.

Does this lawsuit relate to the Pitt-Jolie divorce? 
Somewhat. Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt on September 19, 2016. Pitt claims that she hasn’t been back to the winery since seeking divorce and “did nothing to drive the growth of its business.” Pitt and Jolie talked about a possible buyout a few years after she filed for divorce, but in January 2021, Jolie allegedly told Pitt in writing that she came to a “painful decision, with a heavy heart.”

Jolie allegedly said that she bought Miraval “as a family business” where they “would grow old.” However, Jolie said, “she could no longer maintain any ownership position in an alcohol-based business given her personal objections.” Jolie said that their buyout discussions were “off the table.” Pitt said that Jolie actually had “another buyer waiting in the wings.” On October 5, 2021, Pitt found out that Jolie unloaded her shares when Tenute del Mondo put out a press release saying that it bought her stake. Pitt contends that the “purported sale” wasn’t lawful and is asking for a “nullification” to recognize that the deal isn’t valid and can’t stand.  

Anything else? 
Yes, and it’s even messier than before. On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, the New York Post reported new allegations against Pitt in relation to the ongoing winery litigation. Nouvel, Jolie’s former investment company for the winery, claimed in a cross-suit that Pitt tried to get control of the winery as revenge for their split. These documents dive deeply into their marital woes. Although things had gone well for the winery after the pair bought it in 2008, “all was not well,” the cross-suit claims: “Pitt developed a publicly acknowledged alcohol abuse problem. In 2016, after a serious and internationally publicized incident between Pitt, Jolie, and the couple’s children, Jolie filed for divorce.” The filings say that Pitt’s alleged effort to take over Miraval was “in retaliation” for the divorce and custody battle.
Court papers allege that Pitt’s purported drinking problem resulted in increasingly inappropriate behavior toward Jolie and their children and then provided details on the now notorious flight, where Pitt allegedly pushed Jolie, punched the ceiling of the plane, and “refused to let the family leave the plane for 20 minutes,” yelling, “You’re not taking my fucking kids.” These allegations come several weeks after a sealed FBI report about the flight, obtained by NBC News and several other outlets, surfaced. The FBI and Los Angeles child welfare authorities closed an investigation of physical-abuse allegations related to Pitt and his children during this flight. Pitt did not face criminal charges, per reports. While Jolie and Pitt were deemed legally single in 2018, their custody battles continue, NBC News said.

So, that’s it?
Nope! The new court documents also hit back at Pitt’s allegation that Shefler — Stoli Group’s owner — has ties to Putin. “In reality, ever since Mr. Shefler rebuilt Stoli from the ashes of its Soviet predecessor into a profitable business, he has been in open conflict with Putin and Russia. Stoli has been locked in litigation with the Putin regime for decades over control of the Stolichnaya vodka trademarks,” court papers state. “Shefler and Stoli have repeatedly and publicly denounced the Putin regime and its reprehensible invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s people once even tried to kidnap Shefler.”

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