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Parties settle proceedings over £11 million Ferrari after 25 year dispute


Proceedings concerning a 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus were settled on the first day of a three week trial before the Commercial Court.

The car is one of only six 375 Plus Ferraris ever made, only four of which remain in existence. It has a famous racing pedigree from the 1950s.

The car was subsequently bought by an Ohio car collector, Mr Karl Kleve, in 1958.  The car’s wrecked chassis was stolen from Ohio in 1989 and found its way to Belgium.  Mr Jacques Swaters, a highly decorated Belgian war hero, racing driver, Ferrari enthusiast, and friend of Enzo Ferrari, bought the chassis in 1990 and went about restoring the car. Mr Kleve made attempts to regain possession of the car. In 1999, Mr Swaters said he entered into a settlement agreement with Mr Kleve governed by New York law.  Both Mr Kleve and Mr Swaters are now dead.

In June 2014, the American billionaire Leslie Wexner paid nearly £11 million for the car at an auction held by Bonhams at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Mr Wexner subsequently sought to rescind his contract of sale with the car’s sellers and his buyer’s agreement with Bonhams, alleging that he was misled about the title to the car.

Eight parties, asserting various interests in the car or in its parts, were involved in proceedings before the English Court to determine the fate of the car and the division of the proceeds of sale (if any).

On the application of Ms Florence Swaters' legal team, Flaux J ordered a trial of a preliminary issue to determine who owned the car’s chassis and spare parts before the auction.  In November 2015, Flaux J held that before the auction Mr Swaters’ daughter, Ms Florence Swaters, had title to the car including the spare parts.

The settlement of proceedings between all eight parties brings the long-running dispute relating to the car to an end.

Michael Bools QC and Joanne Box acted for Ms Florence Swaters, instructed by Ian Ross of Ross & Co LLP. 

Richard Eschwege acted for Ms Swaters at the preliminary issue hearing and earlier in the proceedings.  Ms Swaters was also advised throughout the earlier proceedings by Jonathan Hirst QC, instructed by Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP of Ohio and Ross & Co.