Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Mot to sue Vinexpo

Published:  23 July, 2008

Mot & Chandon is set to sue Vinexpo for loss of business, image and credibility' after not being allowed to occupy its contracted stand space at last month's exhibition in Bordeaux.

Mot had agreed to take space at the show for the first time since 1991 following overtures from Vinexpo which dropped previous demands that it was only appropriate for Mot to be in the tented grandes marques village running alongside Hall 1.

In February this year (2005) Vinexpo approached Mot afresh, offering it the chance to take a stand right in the centre of Hall 1, in front of the Commissariat Gnral close to the large press centre. This position was occupied by Chanel during Vinexpo 2003 and is in an area described by Mot's communications vice president Jean Berchon as the alle du luxe. It backed onto Louis Vuitton's boutique stand this year.

Mot, fearing that other wine and spirit exhibitors might not like the company occupying such a position facing trade stands that included Rmy Cointreau, specifically sought assurances from Vinexpo that this would not cause any problems. Berchon says they were told: this is not your concern, it's our concern'. Vinexpo's keenness to have Mot return to the show is underlined by what Berchon describes as quite interesting value for money' in the price offered. The space was booked in March 2005, the contract signed and payment made the following month, he says.

Mot & Chandon's presence on stand number BD145 appeared in the official show catalogue and featured in pre-show press releases distributed to international journalists. One such release specifically thanked Champagne houses like Ruinart and Taittinger for their long-term support and hailed the return of Mot & Chandon to this year's exhibition.

Late on the morning of Thursday 16 June, however, three days before the show was due to open, Vinexpo contacted Mot & Chandon by email and telephone to explain that they were facing requests that Mot should swap positions with Louis Vuitton in order to no longer be facing drinks stands'. Despite the fact that stands had to be installed from early morning on Saturday 18 June, and however strange it was to get such a request at such short notice, Berchon says Mot agreed to consider the swap providing Louis Vuitton would accept it and the two respective stand-builders viewed it as feasible in the time remaining'.

In reality it was never really an option as the Louis Vuitton stand covered 24 square metres and Mot's 36. In any case Louis Vuitton refused to swap and both stand-builders dismissed the idea that it would be possible to re-design and re-build the stands between Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning. Furthermore, says Berchon, the Commission de Scurit (inspecting all stands at the exhibition for fire and safety regulations etc) had passed each stand in its original format on the Thursday and indicated it was not in a position to re-inspect.

Berchon says Mot told Vinexpo on the evening of Thursday 16 June that: because the swap is not possible, we will occupy quite legitimately the initial space as per our contract.' According to Berchon, on Friday morning, Vinexpo sent me a fax explaining we had not swapped and therefore we could not stay at our initial location as this would: "affect the homogeneity of the exhibition". They also said they would re-imburse Mot some of its expenses as we were not allowed to install our stand.' Mot refused to accept the cancellation at such short notice because in Berchon's words: the loss in terms of image, credibility and business went far beyond the actual cost of the stand and its design and construction'.

Vinexpo apparently confirmed to Mot that the trucks bringing the stand should not be sent and, in order to avoid a farcical conflict' Mot cancelled the construction trucks, Berchon says. However, because many appointments with clients and customers had been made by Mot, Berchon says that he and a colleague stood where the stand should have been on the Sunday and Monday of the exhibition (the first two days) in order to explain to our guests why we were not there'.

On 22 June, before the exhibition had ended, Mot's lawyers served Vinexpo with a mise en demeure asking for damages to compensate for what Berchon calls loss of business, image and credibility'. This is a necessary procedure under French law before a party can be sued, and usually a response is expected within 8-10 days. Vinexpo's response was received only at the end of last week (7 July), but as it was unsatisfactory from Mot's point of view it is, in Berchon's words: very likely we will sue them'.