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Brad Pitt has invoked the war in Ukraine in his latest lawsuit against ex-wife Angelina Jolie over control of Château Miraval — a French winery the couple once co-owned that hosted their 2014 nuptials and produces an internationally renowned Rosé.
The pair have been embroiled in the nasty and slow dissolution of their relationship since 2016 when Jolie, 47, filed for divorce from Pitt, 58, and for custody of their six children.
The protracted legal saga of the former Hollywood power couple has spilled into a messy dispute over the ownership of the 17th-century French estate and vineyard in Correns.
The “Fight Club” star has accused his ex-wife of secretly selling her 50% stake in his beloved business to an alleged Russian oligarch and spirits tycoon — a “vindictive and unlawful” move that he says was spurred by an unfavorable custody ruling she received last year.
The new allegations were levied in an updated complaint filed in June against Jolie in Los Angeles Superior Court, asking a judge to cancel the deal that made Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler and his company a co-owner of Pitt’s family business.
He flew to Rome last week to visit his 14-year-old twins on their birthday. Jolie is with their brood in Italy filming “Without Blood.” Pitt recently opened up about suffering from prosopagnosia – a condition that makes it difficult to recognize faces.
The actors’ doomed romance began as a scandal in 2004 when they met on the set of “Mr. & Mrs Smith” while Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston.
The pair bought Château Miraval together in 2008 for 25 million euros and agreed never to sell their respective interests without the other’s consent, according to court papers.
“The vineyard became Pitt’s passion — and a profitable one, as Miraval, under Pitt’s stewardship, has grown into a multimillion-dollar global business and one of the world’s most highly regarded producers of rosé wine,” his lawyer, Laura Brill, wrote in the suit.
Jolie, by her own admission, had little involvement in the business venture — enjoying the estate as a family retreat, where she stayed before the birth of their twins in 2008, and where the couple tied the knot in 2014.
The 35-bedroom château, which boasts a professional recording studio, sweeping views of the vineyards and a private lake, sits on 1800 acres.
Pitt partnered with Marc Perrin, a French winemaker, in 2013. Their first wine, Miraval Rosé 2012, sold out: 6,000 bottles were gone in five hours.
Wine Spectator listed the Brangelina bottle among the top 100 wines of 2013 — the first rosé to ever make the cut.
In the years that followed, the business branched out, producing champagne and other wines.
“Miraval products are now sold in over 65 different countries,” wrote Brill, crediting Pitt for creating a wildly successful company that is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Bad Faith Deal
Pitt had agreed to buy Jolie out in 2021 and the warring exes had even settled on a price — but that changed in May after a judge issued a ruling to modify their custody agreement in Pitt’s favor, the suit alleges.
Jolie’s side abruptly terminated the negotiations. In October 2021, Pitt first learned in a press release that Jolie had sold her half of the company to Shefler, the main shareholder of SPI Group, a mammoth wine and spirits producer and distributor best known for the Stolichnaya vodka brand.
The businessman made a bid for the company in 2016 when the couple first split, offering 60 million euros and a steeply discounted private jet to sweeten the pot — but Pitt rebuffed him.
“Jolie had thus sold [her shares] not just to a stranger but to the very stranger with whom Pitt and Miraval had refused to deal,” the suit alleges, calling Shefler a “controversial Russian oligarch.”
Shefler has now tried to “seize control of Miraval” with the help of his henchman Alexey Oliynik, contacting distributors and discussing contracts without the actor’s permission, according to the filing.
Miraval’s “carefully honed brand” has also been dealt a blow through the connection to Shefler, who is allegedly known for “ruthless business tactics and controversial business relationships,” the suit says.
Pitt’s lawyer described the takeover as a “Jolie-led conspiracy” to force the actor into a partnership with a “stranger with poisonous associations and intentions.”
“Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Miraval’s insurer has sought assurances that Shefler is not aligned with Putin,” the filing says, noting the boycott of Stolichnaya products and the Ukrainian government’s call for sanctions against the liquor baron.
Since the war began, Stolichnaya vodka has been renamed Stoli, and Shefler has insisted that the product is produced in Latvia, not Russia, where he run afoul of President Vladimir Putin and was exiled.He lives with his wife, a Victoria’s Secret model, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Pitt’s lawyer called the Stoli brand a “massive international liability” that could sink the actor’s family business that he has “cultivated for over decade.”
Pitt, who names Jolie, Shefler, Oliynik and their respective companies, alleges breach of contract and other claims and is suing to cancel the deal, for punitive and compensatory damages in addition to legal fees.
Three days after Depp filed his revised complaint, the Stoli Group, under SPI Group Holding Limited, issued a press release downplaying the conflict and insisting that Shefler’s only role in the venture is “that of an investor.”
“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,” reads the statement, referring to Château Miraval. “In this partnership, each of the partners will be a winner.”
Pitt’s lawyer said in his suit there is no such agreement. Attorneys for Jolie and Shefler didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Sarah Rumpf and Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.