It’s a battle of the Birkins for Heritage Auctions and Christie’s International. Matthew Rubinger, formerly the resident Hermès handbag expert at Heritage, recently departed the company to join Christie’s, and took Heritage’s “trade secrets” along with him. The New York Times reports that no one knows rare Birkins like Rubinger, 26, who began buying and reselling purses back in high school. Heritage claims in the lawsuit that it invested in his identity, branded him as a star, and introduced him to sources in Hong Kong and Japan. It goes without saying that they were less than pleased when Rubinger traded teams, and they have since filed a lawsuit against Christie’s, Rubinger, and two high-level associates who also left, for breach of contract and stealing trade secrets. Rubinger and his associates’ departure from the auction house left Heritage with essentially no luxury accessories team.
While Heritage has always specialized in high-end accessories, Christie’s, a house generally more concerned with Picasso and Matisse than Hermès and Chanel, has recently made a push into the luxury fashion market. Heritage is seeking $60 million in damages and lost profits, a number that reflects the significant earnings Heritage raked in from Hermès handbag sales. Last December, Heritage sold a one-of-a-kind porosus crocodile and black Togo leather Kelly bag for $125,000, and in late 2011, a red crocodile Birkin bag with 18-karat white-gold and diamond hardware went for a record $203,000. Without those sizable profits, it’s unclear how Heritage will continue with its current plans to expand the business.