the law

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 had 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 rosé-y side hustle is now the latest in a slew of legal disputes the couple has been waging against each other since their 2016 divorce. The famous exes are locked in a battle over Jolie’s selling her portion of the property without Pitt’s approval. In Pitt’s civil complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the actor 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 after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Jolie’s former company filed a $250 million cross-complaint alleging that Pitt wanted to get control over their company as payback for their split and their child-custody fight and linked his allegedly abusive behavior to his drinking habits. On October 4, 2022, Jolie filed a cross-complaint against Pitt detailing alleged abuse that involved their children. The fight described in Jolie’s complaint happened only days before their divorce filing.

Things have only gotten stickier since the initial lawsuits. Nouvel, Jolie’s former investment company bought out by Shefler, accused Pitt and “co-conspirators” of “looting” and “stripping” Miraval of its assets, according to documents obtained by CNN on July 11. The company sued Pitt for at least $350 million in damages. Here’s what you need to know.

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 trying to oust Pitt by engaging in business tactics that allegedly destabilize the winery, the actor says. Pitt 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: 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 says that since 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 would 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 she hasn’t been back to the winery since seeking the 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 had come to a “painful decision, with a heavy heart.”

Jolie allegedly said she had 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 their buyout discussions were “off the table.” Pitt said Jolie actually had “another buyer waiting in the wings.” On October 5, 2021, Pitt found out that Jolie had unloaded her shares when Tenute del Mondo put out a press release saying it had bought her stake. Pitt contends the “purported sale” wasn’t lawful and is asking for a “nullification” to recognize that the deal is invalid and can’t stand.  

Is this lawsuit getting personal?
Yes, and it’s even messier than before. On September 6, 2022, the New York Post reported new allegations against Pitt related to the ongoing winery litigation. Nouvel, Jolie’s former investment company for the winery, claimed in a cross-suit that Pitt had 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.
These allegations came several weeks after a sealed FBI report surfaced about the incident, which had taken place on an airplane; the report was obtained by NBC News and several other outlets. The FBI and Los Angeles child-welfare authorities closed an investigation of physical-abuse allegations related to Pitt and his children during the flight. Pitt did not face criminal charges, per reports.

Then, on October 4, 2022, Jolie personally filed a cross-complaint against Pitt that provides more details into the alleged airplane altercation of September 14, 2016. Jolie’s cross-complaint claims that Pitt’s behavior was aggressive before they even boarded the plane and alleges he had a “confrontation” with one of their children. When Jolie asked Pitt what was wrong, he responded that she was too indulgent with their kids, then “verbally attacked her,” the cross-complaint says. About 90 minutes later, Pitt ordered Jolie to the back of the airplane and brought her into the bathroom, where he shouted at her. He “grabbed Jolie by the head and shook her, and then grabbed her shoulders and shook her again before pushing her into the bathroom wall,” then punched the ceiling, court papers claim. Jolie left the bathroom, and at one point, one of their children tried to defend her. Pitt, the cross-complaint alleges, “lunged at his own child.”

At this point, Jolie grabbed Pitt from behind to stop him, and he hurled himself against a seat to get her off of him, hurting her elbow and back, court papers claim. “The children rushed in and all bravely tried to protect each other. Before it was over, Pitt choked one of the children and struck another in the face,” the suit alleges. “Some of the children pleaded with Pitt to stop. They were all frightened. Many were crying.” Sometimes Pitt would approach them to shout and curse at them. He poured beer on both Jolie and his children. By the time the plane landed, Jolie had organized separate transportation and told Pitt she and the children were going to a hotel. She alleges that he screamed at her, pushed her, and kept her and the kids from leaving the plane for approximately 20 minutes. When Pitt finally let them leave, he “again physically abused one of their children.” Pitt, the documents allege, “grabbed and shook Jolie by the head and shoulders.” One of their children pleaded, “Don’t hurt her.” While Pitt let her go, he allegedly called her a bitch before saying, “Fuck you, fuck you all.” Jolie filed for divorce five days after that fateful flight.

As far as Jolie’s allegations go, a Pitt source said: “She continues to rehash, revise, and reimagine her description of an event that happened six years ago by adding completely untrue information each time she fails to get what she wants. Her story is constantly evolving.”

In Pitt’s new complaint, filed on June 1, he called the sale “vindictive”: “Jolie now makes excuses about her decision to break off discussions with Pitt and pursue this secret putative sale to Shefler and Stol. Jolie’s excuses will not be borne out. Her decision to terminate negotiations with Pitt was intentional and pretextual. As will be demonstrated at trial, Jolie’s actions were unlawful, severely and intentionally damaging Pitt and unjustly enriching herself.”

Jolie’s side sees it differently: “The reality is that Pitt refused to complete the Miraval sale with Jolie unless she agreed to being silenced about the abuse as he demanded that $8.5 million be held back to force her to keep quiet … No matter how many times Mr. Pitt amends his complaint, he cannot escape from the fact that he verbally and physically assaulted Ms. Jolie and their children — even choking one of the children and striking another,” a source for Jolie told Vulture. “Still today, and in the seven years since that fateful plane ride, he personally has never publicly denied that it happened. Mr. Pitt saying that he is suing his ex-wife to protect his family is hard to understand, because he is well aware that the children have not felt able to return to the house in France for almost seven years now due to the events that led to Ms. Jolie filing for divorce.”

Got it. Why Nouvel is filing a second lawsuit against Pitt?
Jolie’s former investment company has more complaints to make against Pitt, it seems. Nouvel accused the Babylon actor of vineyard-related “misconduct” that escalated after Jolie sold the company to Stoli Group. “Pitt wasted the company’s assets, spending millions on vanity projects, including more than $1 million on swimming pool renovations, building and rebuilding a staircase four times, and spending millions to restore a recording studio,” the document filed on July 10 states, per CNN. Nouvel accused Pitt and “co-conspirators” of “stripping” and “looting” assets, seeking $350 million in damages. “Incensed that Jolie sold Nouvel to Stoli rather than him, Pitt has acted like a petulant child, refusing to treat Nouvel as an equal partner in the business,” the filing states.

So that’s it?
Jolie’s filing 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.”

This is a developing story.

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