It’s handbags at dawn as two of the world’s top auctioneers battle it out in a bitter dispute over Birkin handbags. In the $60 million lawsuit, filed in Manhatan last Friday, Heritage Auctioneers & Galleries accuse Christies of poaching three employees who subsequently shared company trade secrets relating to its handbag department.
One of the employees is 26 year old Matthew Rubinger, the self educated luxury handbag expert who ran a handbag business from his bedroom throughout school and univerity. Rubinger is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts when it comes to Hermès handbags. Heritage claims to have invested heavily in Rubinger, paying him a salary of $340,000 and providing him with extensive training. According to the New York Times, Heritage’s designer handbag market has produced record sales and profits in recent years. In 2011, a red crocodile Hermès Birkin, with 18-karat white-gold and diamond-encrusted hardware, sold for a cool $203,000.
In the lawsuit, Heritage accuse Christie’s of “attempting to seize for itself a windfall of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains through…acts of unfair competition and unethical business practices,” The suit also claims that the other two employees, Rachel Koffsky and Caitlin Donovan, “had no prior experience in the auction field” before working for Heritage, and that “they cannot perform their duties for Christie’s without using Heritage’s confidential information.”
A spokeswoman for Christie’s states that “the complaint is without merit” and that they are “prepared to vigorously defend these claims”.
More to come on this one!