Where was I?
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Ken Jacques just bought nearly 125,000 bottles of wine for $100. That’s less than a penny a dozen.
And this isn’t cheap wine, either. It sells for $9 to $15 a bottle at your local store.
It all started when the 46-year-old San Luis Obispo wine distributor was sued. That led to a countersuit, which led to a six-figure monetary award for him, which led to a bizarre auction that ultimately found Jacques bidding alone.
Here’s how it went down.
James Estate Winery in 2002 signed Jacques’ company, Evaki Inc., to market its Australian products in the United States.
But a few months later, James Estate stopped paying Evaki’s consulting fee, filed a lawsuit and claimed that his company was doing a poor job marketing its wine.
Next, according to a San Luis Obispo judge, James Estate sent letters to Evaki’s clients, falsely saying Evaki was being prosecuted for stealing money.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Hilton sided with Evaki and Jacques, ruling that the Australian wine company should pay the local firm $399,000 for libel and breach of contract.
The wine company said it didn’t have the money to pay it. But then Jacques’ attorney, Jeffry Radding, learned the winery had more than 10,000 cases of wine sitting in a Sonoma, Calif., warehouse. So the judge ordered a wine auction to help James Estate pay off its judgment. Jacques and three others showed up for it in December.
One man arrived late, so he was out. The second prospective bidder was a representative from James Estate hoping to push up the bidding amount or buy back the wine, according to Jacques. When the man’s liquor license didn’t check out, the sheriff’s staff escorted him from the warehouse.
That left Jacques and another bidder, a multimillionaire well known in the wine industry.
“He looked at me and checked me out like we were playing poker,” Jacques said. “I anticipated we’d have a couple buyers there to purchase everything for $100,000 to $150,000.”
Jacques threw down $100, and when the millionaire didn’t bid, Jacques won.
“I could have easily bid just a dollar,” Jacques said, in retrospect. “But that just didn’t seem right – it was too sweet of a deal.”
I bet he has a lot of new friends.