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Posted: Thursday, October 15 2009. 14:48

Sour Aftertaste in USA over Broadbent’s Win

The iconic wine expert Michael Broadbent of UK has won the libel suit against Random House, the US publisher of the book The Billionaire’s Vinegar, but the so-called victory has left sour aftertaste in the USA with the author, Benjamin Wallace justifying the contents of the book..

In July, Michael Broadbent brought a suit against Random House, the publisher of The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery Of The World’s Most Expensive Bottle Of Wine. News of the settlement broke on Decanter which termed it a victory for Broadbent.

Author Benjamin Wallace has sent a public statement authorized to be published in the USA, to Dr Vino saying that it was unfortunate that Broadbent had chosen to blame him as a messenger, especially for something that was not being said in the book. ‘I have never felt that Mr. Broadbent acted in bad faith, and contrary to his claims, I maintain that The Billionaire’s Vinegar does not suggest that he did. ‘

‘In any case, while I believe that my book speaks for itself, I do want to point out a few things: I was never personally sued by Mr. Broadbent, and I am not a party to the settlement or apology negotiated by him with Random House. Because of the U.K.’s notoriously plaintiff-friendly libel laws and conditional fee system, the company made a business decision to settle with Mr. Broadbent in order to contain its legal costs and exposure in the U.K.’

‘Since the claim was always confined to the book’s availability in the U.K., the settlement does not prevent the book from being published anywhere else or require that a single word be changed. So, while Random House has agreed not to distribute the book in the U.K., the book remains available in the United States, where the libel laws provide greater protection for freedom of speech and where British libel judgments are almost never enforceable, thanks to the First Amendment,’ says the author.

Broadbent was the Senior Director at Christi’s when a bottle of 1787 Lafite was sold in London for the record sum of £105,000 after he had authenticated it as genuinely belonging to the former President of the USA, Thomas Jefferson. About twenty four years later it became a subject matter of controversy and most experts feel it is a fake. But he stands by his original assessment and says he had been forced to take the court action, because the book suggested he had acted, at best unprofessionally, at worst dishonestly.

The veteran journalist is now pondering whether to try to get an injunction against a movie to be brought out based on the book.  'I now have to decide if I'm going to take out an injunction against any film that is based on the book, to make sure the libel is not repeated,' he reportedly told Decanter.after the case settled for an undisclosed amount, out of court.

While the world has not heard the last of the Jefferson’s Bottles controversy, and while Mr. Broadbent’s reputation might have been temporarily bruised a little, the indirect insinuation that he might have been dishonest is downright unfair. We have not read the book so far, but it must be said that the freedom of press anywhere, should not give unbridled privileges to the authors to sensationalize the issues, perhaps to help promote the sales. After all, no wine expert can be expected to be totally infallible-unless the new technologies that are now being constantly developed come to the rescue-editor  

       

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