Victoria's Secret founder sues auction house
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The 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus involved in the case was one of six ever made
The billionaire founder of Victoria Secret has been given the green light to sue Bonhams over the sale of an incredibly rare $25million Ferrari.
Les Wexner bought the 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus - one of six ever made - at last year's Goodwood Festival of Speed.
However, the billionaire claims that he was never told that ownership of the 330 horsepower road-legal racing car was in dispute.
The car had been restored by Belgian racing driver Jacques Swaters who also had a Ferrari dealership.
The High Court in London ruled that his daughter Florence Swaters was the car's rightful owner following a 16-year legal battle which was heard in courts from Paraguay, Switzerland and Ohio.
The court heard that at one stage, the car, which had a 4.9 litre engine and a 189mph top speed had once been owned by former army engineer, designer and author, Karl Kleve.
The court accepted that the car had been stolen from outside Mr Kleve's Ohio home sometime between 1985 and 1989 and stripped for parts.
Mr Swaters purchased the rusting chassis for an undisclosed amount in 1990, without its engine and several other spare parts.
The court heard that Mr Swaters purchased the chassis in good faith and was unaware that it was stolen. When Mr Kleve contacted him in 1997, Mr Swaters agreed to pay him £420,000.
Mr Kleve died in 2003 and Mr Swaters passed away in 2010.
His daughter Ms. Florence Swaters claims to have inherited the car and tracked down the original engine which she bought in 2009.
Today Mr.Justice Flaux giving judgment after a hearing last month said there was no dispute that she owned the engine.
He said Mr. Swaters was a highly decorated war hero who fought in the Belgian resistance in the second World War and for a number of years raced as 'gentleman' driver. He ruled that when Mr. Swaters bought the dilapidated chassis he had good title to it.
He said he and his daughter spent some £637,500 restoring the chassis.
As a preliminary issue he had to decide who owned the chassis and the spare parts and ruled that Ms. Swaters owned them as well.
Her claim had been challenged by Mr. Kleve's daughter Ms. Kristine Kleve Lawson who insisted she was still the true owner.
The judge rejected her claim saying that the agreement by her father to sell it to Mr. Swaters was valid.
He said at the time of the auction Ms. Swaters was the owner of the car and the spare parts.
In the meantime the judge said the lovingly restored Ferrari remained in a container in Southampton pending the dispute between all the various parties following last years auction.
Of the six cars made that year only four remain with fashion designer Ralph Lauren and candy billionaire Giorgio Perfetti having two of them.
With the ruling of ownership now out of the way 78-year-old Mr. Wexner's claim against Bonham's can go ahead.