A new 'Vanity Fair' feature details how the couple's contentious divorce has affected their multimillion-dollar wine business.
As the legal battles continue between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, a new Vanity Fair exposé is diving deeper into the contentious former couple's showdown over Miraval, their estate in the south of France and its successful namesake wines.
The couple purchased the property in May 2008, just before the birth of their twins, Knox and Vivienne. It was the site of their wedding in 2014, ahead of which Pitt gifted Jolie 10 percent of his stake in the property and winemaking ventures, making them 50-50 partners.
"Miraval was a love letter to his wife and his children, providing a beautiful life for Angelina and the kids and shielding them from the intense pressures of celebrity," said Frank Pollaro, a furniture designer who helped jumpstart Pitt's interest in winemaking, according to the article.
However, as their relationship soured beyond repair in the last few years, the battle over Miraval has gotten personal and ugly. Vanity Fair's article notes that, prior to the couple's purchase of the property, Jolie's business manager suggested a doomsday clause stipulating that, in the event that the pair ever split, each would have the right to buy the other’s share of Miraval.
In love as they were at the time, the couple rejected the idea. According to a cross-complaint by Jolie in the ongoing legal battle, Pitt said it "wasn’t necessary for two reasonable people." He would later state that he and Jolie promised each other to never sell their respective stakes in Miraval without the other's consent, a claim Jolie now denies.
Read on for more of the personal details revealed in the Vanity Fair piece.
Jolie emailed Pitt "with a heavy heart" on Jan. 21, 2021, to tell him of her decision to sell her stake in Miraval, in part because it was "a business that is centered around alcohol" -- likely a reference to the now-infamous 2016 plane incident, in which Jolie claims Pitt was intoxicated on a private jet and "choked" one of their children and "struck another in the face" before pouring alcohol on her and the children. Jolie filed for divorce within days of the alleged confrontation.
"Even now impossible to write this without crying," Jolie wrote. "Above all, it is the place we brought the twins home to, and where we were married over a plaque in my mother’s memory. A place…where I thought I would grow old…. But it is also the place that marks the beginning of the end of our family."
"Miraval for me died September 2016," she continued, referring to the date of the alleged plane meltdown, "and everything I have seen in the years since has sadly confirmed that."
DISSOLVING THE PARTNERSHIP
In February 2021, Pitt agreed to pay Jolie $54.5 million to buy her out of Miraval. But what could have been a simple dissolution of a business partnership was ultimately complicated by the couple's contentious divorce proceedings.
After Jolie filed a sealed document about the plane incident and her claims of domestic abuse as part of the custody battle, Pitt reportedly demanded she sign an NDA to prohibit her from "discussing outside of court any of Pitt’s personal conduct toward her or the family." Jolie called the request an "unconscionable gag order," but Pitt framed it as vital toward his business interests in Miraval, intended to "ensure the seller doesn’t damage the value of the asset after being paid for it."
According to Jolie's cross-complaint, Pitt walked away from the buy-out deal when she wouldn't agree, so she sought out another buyer. On Oct. 5, 2021, the actress sold Nouvel -- the holding company in control of her Miraval shares -- to Tenute del Mondo, the wine division of the Stoli group controlled by Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler, for $67 million.
Pitt felt betrayed, seeing the sale as retaliation for his recent legal victory. Judge John Ouderkirk had awarded him joint custody of the couple's minor children -- Jolie had been fighting for sole custody with allowances for visitations from Pitt.
"It is not a coincidence that she sold her interest in Miraval to an adversarial party, and part of the family home to a stranger, right after a judge granted Brad a huge win: 50-50 custody," a source close to Pitt told Vanity Fair. (A panel of three judges would later remove Ouderkirk from the case and vacate his rulings.)
In February 2022, Pitt filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife, her holding company, and the new owners of her Miraval shares, claiming that Jolie had "contributed nothing to Miraval’s success." This was followed by a cross-complaint by Stoli, seeking damages "for the illegal and malicious actions of Pitt and his allies to injure Nouvel by devaluing its investments and depriving it of its proper role in the management of Chateau Miraval, the world-famous producer of rosé wine."
WHERE THINGS STAND
The couple's legal battle continues today. On June 1, Pitt filed an amended complaint, still seeking to have Jolie’s sale of Nouvel reversed. That led to a statement from Jolie’s attorney, saying that Pitt "has never publicly denied" the events of the 2016 plane incident.
Pitt’s attorney, Anne Kiley, replied, "Brad has owned everything he’s responsible for from day one, but he’s not going to own anything he didn’t do."
For sources familiar with the former couple and their family, the drawn-out legal battle is nothing short of a tragedy.
"This case has been covered as a celebrity divorce; it is really a story about abuse," said one source familiar with the matter, per Vanity Fair.
"I hope you’ll give some grace to somebody who had a breakdown," said another person who knew the family. "Everybody was shocked by the eruption on the plane, because Brad is not an abusive person. But even more devastating was what came afterwards: Brad being alienated from those he loves most—his children."