Jury awards $12M to Fla. billionaire in wine spat

LARRY NEUMEISTER
The Associated Press
Modified: April 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm •  Published: April 19, 2013
Advertisement
;

photo - Florida billionaire William Koch, left, and his lawyer John Hueston hold bottles of wine outside Manhattan federal court, Friday, April 12, 2013, in New York. A Manhattan jury concluded the wines were sold to Koch fraudulently at a 2005 auction by a California businessman.  The jury awarded him $12 million Friday in punitive damages a day after awarding him $380,000 in compensatory damages. Koch said it's the best he's felt since winning the America's Cup in 1992.  (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister)
Florida billionaire William Koch, left, and his lawyer John Hueston hold bottles of wine outside Manhattan federal court, Friday, April 12, 2013, in New York. A Manhattan jury concluded the wines were sold to Koch fraudulently at a 2005 auction by a California businessman. The jury awarded him $12 million Friday in punitive damages a day after awarding him $380,000 in compensatory damages. Koch said it's the best he's felt since winning the America's Cup in 1992. (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister)

A Florida billionaire awarded $12 million Friday by a Manhattan jury in his dispute over phony vintage wine vowed to do more to expose wine frauds. The energy maven and yachtsman also proclaimed it his happiest day since winning the America's Cup in 1992.

"Out of sight! Over the moon!" William Koch said as he described his feelings after emerging giggling with glee from a courtroom in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. "We weren't even expecting any damages and we got $12 million. Unbelievable!"

The verdict came against California businessman Eric Greenberg, who insisted throughout a three-week civil trial that he never intentionally sold a fake bottle of wine among auctions that generated about $42 million for him over an eight-year period. The trial involved alleged counterfeit bottles of Bordeaux labeled as if they were made from 1864 to 1950.

In a statement, Greenberg called the verdict "a disappointment because I believed all the consigned wine to be authentic."

He vowed to appeal, adding that "we believe that we acted honorably and tried to do the right thing for all concerned."

Outside court, Greenberg declined to comment beyond his statement.

Koch's lawyer, John Hueston, suggested that a criminal probe of Greenberg was underway, saying: "We're cooperating with the FBI." He declined to elaborate.

In a chilly drizzle outside court, the 72-year-old Koch celebrated with his lawyers, posed for pictures and met briefly with at least one of the eight jurors who decided on Thursday that Koch had been defrauded, awarding him $380,000 in compensatory damages. Other jurors wished him well as he left court. One even tried to quietly slip him a note in a rolled up piece of paper as she shook his hand before she left the jury box.

Koch, the brother of famous industrialists and conservative political supporters David and Charles Koch, walked out of the courthouse with his lawyer, each of them displaying one of the bottles at stake in the case.