Superstars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, once Hollywood’s most prominent couple, bought a majority stake in Chateau Miraval in southern France in 2008 and tied the knot six years later.
But they filed for annulment in 2016 and have since been embroiled in lawsuits, including custody of their six children.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday in California by Pitt, the couple had “agreed that they would never sell their respective interests in Miraval without the other’s consent.”
But last October, Jolie sold her stake to a “Luxembourg-based liquor manufacturer controlled by Russian oligarch Yuri Shefler,” the legal document obtained by AFP says.
Pitt’s filing alleges that Jolie violated the terms of their original agreement by not offering him an initial refusal for her share, and that she is trying to “reclaim unearned unexpected profits for herself while causing undue harm to Pitt.”
“Jolie stopped contributing to Miraval a long time ago — while Pitt put money and sweat equity into the wine industry and built it into the nascent company it is today,” it says.
Pitt’s lawsuit calls for a jury trial.
It describes the vineyard as a “small, unprofitable winery” that “needed renovation” prior to the pair’s purchase in 2008.
The pair paid “about 25 million euros ($28 million)”, with Pitt contributing 60% and Jolie the remaining 40%.
But Pitt went on to pay for renovations “in a way that is far from disproportionate to his relative ownership stake,” on the understanding that Jolie would not back out of the investment without his consent, the suit says.
Pitt brought in Marc Perrin, one of France’s top winemakers, to help transform the company into a leading rose wine producer, but “Jolie was not involved in these efforts,” it continues.
Revenue reportedly grew from about $3 million in 2013 to more than $50 million last year, with Miraval recently launching a new line of sparkling rose wine.
A source with knowledge of the matter told AFP that Jolie is “looking for a return on an investment she didn’t make and a profit she didn’t earn.”
Jolie’s attorney said the actress had not yet been served with Pitt’s lawsuit, and her representatives “heard from the media about the complaint.”
“I understand Mr Pitt is aware that Ms Jolie is on a long commercial international flight with their children, out of reach and unable to respond,” Robert Olson said in a statement to AFP.
Tenute del Mondo, the beverage company that bought Jolie’s share, said in a statement that it “chose to invest in Miraval because it is an exceptional wine and an exceptional brand that complements our portfolio.”
“We entered into this partnership because we wanted to have the talent, skills and distribution channels that will only further enhance the Miraval offering and make Miraval the most successful brand of rosé wine and champagne,” the company added.
A-listers Pitt and Jolie first became a couple after starring together as married hitmen in the movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time.
Pitt, now 58, was charged with beating one of his children while on a flight from France to Los Angeles shortly before Jolie filed for divorce, but was later cleared by the FBI and social workers.
The couple announced in 2018 that they had reached an amicable settlement over the children – three biological and three adopted.
But last July, Jolie took a victory in their custody battle when the private judge overseeing their divorce and custody cases was disqualified from the case.
Judge John Ouderkirk — who also searched their wedding at the vineyard — was found to have benefited financially from working separately with Pitt’s attorneys and was disqualified from the case by an appeals court in California.
The ruling essentially meant that the custody case had to be restarted before a new judge.