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Billionaire WIlliam Koch Is Auctioning Off His Rare Wine Collection

Time to empty those piggy banks

William Koch, left, and his attorney
William Koch, left, and his attorney
AP

Attention, wine lovers with deep pockets: An enviable collection of rare and expensive bottles is headed for auction next month. Billionaire businessman William Koch is putting part of his collection up on the Sotheby's auction block in the May, and according to CNBC some of the bottles will fetch "well into the seven figures."

The more than 20,000 bottles are expected to bring in anywhere from $10 to $15 million total; they encompass less than half of Koch's 43,000 bottle collection — which is presumably more than the 78-year-old energy mogul could possibly drink in his lifetime. Koch favors Burgundy and Bordeaux; some highlights from the astronomically priced selection include a six-liter bottle of Romanee-Conti 1989 DRC Burgundy that could bring in as much as $100,000, and several lots of 1953 Château Lafite Rothschild magnums. A rep for Sotheby's tells CNBC they expect bidding on the latter to be particularly competitive, as many of the bottles have never been available for purchase.

Per the New York Times, Koch is one of the many wine lovers victimized by California-based wine company Premier Cru, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year and is being investigated by the FBI as a possible Ponzi scheme. Premier Cru made a habit of accepting payment for wines it did not yet have in stock, with some customers complaining of years-long waits to obtain rare bottles they'd already paid for. (Koch is no stranger to wine fraud, having previously won multiple lawsuits against sellers of fake rare wines.)

While someone as wealthy as Koch is unlikely to have felt any real impact from said scam, the Times notes that Premier Cru's other victims "include teachers, doctors, accountants and wine store workers who used their savings to buy special-occasion wines." Fraud of rare bottles is a massive problem in the wine industry; in 2014, wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in prison for ripping off wine aficionados — including Koch — to the tune of millions of dollars.


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