How A Russian Billionaire Got Involved In Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt’s Winery Battle

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie surrounded by wreckage.
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The divorce between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt is still ongoing, and now includes a second legal battle now that Pitt has filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife over the fact that she sold her share in a French winery they bought together. However, that decision is now coming under fire from some corners, because the company that Jolie sold to is actually owned by a man who is being called a Russian oligarch. Although that’s not entirely accurate.

As the war in Ukraine continues, a lot of the focus has been on the Russian oligarchs that have strong financial ties to the government of Russia. Yuri Shefler, the man at the center of this story is not one of those people, but because he was born in Russia and is a billionaire, he’s being painted with the same brush by some, including Fox News. Yuri Shefler owns the SPI Group, which, among other things, owns the Stolichnaya vodka brand. 

The SPI Group is the company that has purchased Angelina Jolie’s share of Chateau Miraval, the French winery in which Brad Pitt and Jolie held a controlling interest. It was one of the major property items that still needed to be dealt with as Pitt and Jolie’s legal divorce continues. 

Brad Pitt has sued over the sale because he says that an agreement between the former couple was that Pitt would give his approval before Jolie sold her share in the winery, and while he was aware she was investigating offers to buy her share, she never told him she had done so. He’s looking to have the sale to SPI declared illegal.

Because Jolie has sold her share in the company, Brad Pitt says he no longer has the control of the winery’s operation that he wants and can no longer use the chateau on the property as a residence. He was also interested in revitalizing a recording studio on the property. 

How much the Russian billionaire is even connected to this sale is unclear. He certainly is dealing with his own issues right now. The globally known Vodka brand is in the process of changing its name to Stoli as a way to distance itself from Russia. In the early 2000’s the sale of Stolichnaya to SPI by the Russian government was declared illegal in a Russian court. As a result SPI only owns the trademark in certain parts of the world, and Yuri Shefler and his vodka were both exiled from the country. SPI is now based in Luxembourg and Shefler is a legal resident of the U.K and Israel.

Certainly, because Yuri Shefler has no connections to the Russian government, and is actually a vocal opponent of that government, Angelina Jolie has not inadvertently funded Russia’s war effort. Whether the Russian billionaire’s company will hold on to its share of this winery is another matter. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.