A French vineyard has become the center of the latest high-profile Hollywood spat, after Brad Pitt accused his ex-wife Angelina Jolie of seeking to “inflict harm” on him by selling her 50 percent stake in their wine estate in France to a Russian oligarch.
The allegations, part of Pitt’s lawsuit against Jolie over the sale of Chateau Miraval, are the latest in a bitter legal battle between the former Hollywood power couple who filed for divorce in 2016.
Last October, Jolie sold her stake in the southern France vineyard, where she and Pitt had their wedding, to Tenute del Mondo – a subsidiary of Russia-born billionaire Yuri Shefler’s drinks conglomerate.
Pitt started to sue in February, saying the couple had agreed never to sell their interests without the other’s consent, adding that Jolie was seeking “unearned” profits.
Pitt’s lawyers argued that “Jolie sought to inflict harm on Pitt” with the sale, and describe Shefler as “a stranger with poisonous associations and intentions.”
The filing, presented to a Los Angeles court last Friday, claims that Shefler “maintains personal and professional relationships with individuals in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.”
However, Shefler has long been an outspoken critic of the Russian president, and his Stoli Group drinks conglomerate is based in Latvia.
In March, Shefler issued a statement saying he has been “exiled from Russia since 2002 due to my opposition to Putin,” and rebranded his company in “solidarity with Ukraine.”
But Pitt’s filing says: “Despite Shefler’s desperate attempt to disassociate himself from the Putin regime, the Stoli brand is now a massive international liability.”
It adds: “Stoli vodka is synonymous with Russia, as the countless images of consumers pouring Stoli vodka down the drain make clear.
“Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Miraval’s insurer has sought assurances that Shefler is not aligned with Putin and that affiliation with Stoli would not create commercial risk,” it says.
Angelina Jolie has sold her 50 percent stake in the Chateau Miraval, a vineyard estate previously owned by Brad Pitt and his ex wife. /Michel Gangne/AFP
The complaint also says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is within Shefler’s alleged “network of ill-reputed professional associates” which “threatens lasting harm to Miraval’s reputation.”
Jolie allegedly decided to sell her share of the estate because she and her children “have not been able to return” to Chateau Miraval, reportedly having made multiple offers to her ex-husband before signing the deal with Shefler.
Pitt’s lawsuit against Jolie was “an extension of a false narrative” and “the truth of the situation has still not been made public,” said a source close to Jolie.
Once Tinseltown’s highest-profile couple, Pitt and Jolie first got together after co-starring as married assassins in the 2005 film Mr and Mrs Smith while Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston.
The A-listers announced in 2018 they had reached an amicable settlement over their children, but any further deal appears to have fallen apart.
By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka
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