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Brad Pitt invokes Ukraine in revised Chateau Miraval lawsuit against Angelina Jolie

A glamorous woman and man pose together at an event
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt arrive at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2008.
(Michael A. Mariant / Associated Press)
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Brad Pitt has put the weight of the war in Ukraine behind his Chateau Miraval winery lawsuit against ex-wife Angelina Jolie, filing an updated complaint Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Pitt first sued Jolie in February, alleging she illegally sold her shares in the winery and estate to Russian-expat vodka billionaire Yuri Shefler. Jolie used legal means to skirt an obligation to get Pitt’s approval of the deal, the complaint said. The Stoli-related Shefler and Alexey Oliynik were added as defendants to the complaint filed Friday.

In the new filing, Pitt’s attorneys state that despite Stoli’s attempts to distance itself from Russia, many supporters of Ukraine have associated the vodka brand with Russia and with Vladimir Putin’s military aggression against the smaller Eastern European nation. This association makes the Stoli brand dangerous to the Miraval Rosé brand, the lawsuit alleges.

“After years of celebrating — and profiting from — its Russian roots, Stoli has disclaimed all ties between itself and Russia. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Stoli has said it uses Latvia as its home base and has attempted to ‘rebrand’ by renaming ‘Stolichnaya’ vodka ‘Stoli,’” the lawsuit says. “But Stoli vodka is synonymous with Russia, as the countless images of consumers pouring Stoli vodka down the drain make clear.”

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The complaint says later, “Despite Shefler’s desperate attempt to disassociate himself from the Putin regime, the Stoli brand is now a massive international liability. Continued association with Shefler thus poses serious commercial risk to Miraval — a risk that Pitt’s and Mondo Bongo’s contractual rights were designed to avoid. By subverting those rights, Jolie and Shefler have devalued the family business that Pitt has cultivated for over a decade.”

An attorney for Jolie did not respond immediately Tuesday to a request for comment.

The revised lawsuit cites a “Jolie-led conspiracy” to hurt both Pitt and the Miraval brand, echoing allegations made in the Feb. 17 complaint.

“Jolie pursued and then consummated the purported sale in secret, purposely keeping Pitt in the dark, and knowingly violating Pitt’s contractual rights,” the document says. “By doing so, Jolie sought to seize profits she had not earned and returns on an investment she did not make. Also through the purported sale, Jolie sought to inflict harm on Pitt. Jolie knew and intended that Shefler and his affiliates would try to control the business Pitt had built and to undermine Pitt’s investment in Miraval.”

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Since the sale, Miraval leadership has had to take “urgent measures to manage the hostile and commercial threat posed by Stoli’s claimed ownership interest,” the lawsuit says.

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After Pitt’s team filed the revised lawsuit Friday, Stoli Group put out a press release Monday quoting Stoli Group Chief Executive Damian McKinney as saying that “the only role that Yuri Shefler plays is that of an investor” and denying any desire by the oligarch or the company to turn a 50% stake in the winery into a larger holding.

“[W]e own 50% of Miraval and what we want above all is to create a real added value from this partnership, as a couple of us will go further,” McKinney said in the release. “Our agreement with Brad Pitt is to make the castle a place where art and wine are one, with the most incredible of music studios.”

Pitt alleged in his original complaint — filed a week before the Russian invasion — that since the deal went down, Pitt’s company and Shefler’s have been unable to agree on the management and strategic direction of the company that runs Chateau Miraval. Pitt also complained that he can no longer enjoy his private residence, as it is co-owned by strangers.

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The revised lawsuit, which also names companies SPI Holding Group Ltd. and Tenute del Mondo as defendants, alleges breach of implied-in-fact contract and tortious interference with contractual relations, among other things. Pitt is asking that the sale be undone and that he be awarded punitive and compensatory damages to be determined at a jury trial, as well as the repayment of his legal fees.

Pitt and Jolie were married at Chateau Miraval in 2014 after connecting in 2004 on the set of the movie “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Jolie filed for divorce in September 2016.

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