Philippe Etchebest, revealed in 2011 by Kitchen nightmarethen Top chef, has since been surfing on his notoriety. He filed his name as a protected trademark at the INPI (National Institute of Intellectual Property). To manage his image and his surname, he created his own company, which has earned 4.4 million euros in cumulative net profits since 2011 (see figures below). He has entrusted the management of his image rights to the advertising department of M6, which places him at the head of the gondola in its catalog of animators. He thus monetized his image in multiple advertisements for Danette, Kronenbourg, Lidl, the CuisineAZ site, the Astérix park, the Bistro Régent restaurants…
These advertising contracts are very lucrative. Thus, in 2016, he won a contract for 105,000 euros excluding tax (129,000 euros including tax) to promote Akitania, a caviar produced in Aquitaine. For this sum, the chef did not have much to do: pose for a photo with the product, develop four recipes based on caviar, participate in a few events (lunch with journalists or buyers from supermarkets) and let Akitania put your photo on the packaging and at the points of sale (you can still find the recipes and photos here or here).
The contract, signed in 2016, was for one year, and was not renewed for the following year by Akitania. Two versions oppose this non-renewal. Philippe Etchebest affirms that, during a lunch, the boss of Akitania “offered him a sum of money to contract directly with him”, without going through M6. For his part, Akitania claims that a clause in the contract proposed by M6 did not suit him.
Philippe Etchebest, chef in the kitchen and on screen: “Just talk to each other to put out the fire!”
Be that as it may, this non-renewal of the contract did not please M6 who, in defense of the interests of Philippe Etchebest, took Akitania to court, claiming 174,000 euros, in compensation for the faults committed and the loss of earnings. The Six claimed that, although Akitania had never formally signed a new contract, an agreement in principle had been reached, and broken wrongfully by Akitania, by “simulating a disagreement”.
But the Six was dismissed by the Saintes court, which ordered it to pay 7,000 euros in procedural costs to Akitania. This decision has just been confirmed by the Poitiers Court of Appeal, ordering M6 to pay 8,000 euros in procedural costs.
For the appeal judges, “it has not been demonstrated by M6 the existence of an offer actually accepted by Akitania, and therefore of a consensual contract entered into, without it being necessary to consider the actual absence signing a written contract. In the absence of agreement on the essential conditions of the proposed contract, the termination of the negotiations cannot be qualified as faulty, and M6 cannot therefore claim compensation for the negotiations”.
Philippe Etchebest reveals the 6 mistakes that plague a restaurant… and a business
In practice, Akitania is produced by the Sturgeon company, which belongs to the Kaviar group, managed and owned 50/50 by Alexandre and Stéphanie Leroy. These brother and sister claim to produce in France 18 tons of caviar per year, that is to say half of the hexagonal production, which would rank them in the top 3 in the world. The Kaviar group (one million euros in net profits out of 12 million euros in turnover in 2019), which also uses the brand Sturia, also produces caviar in the province of Hunan in China. He also bought a Bordeaux vineyard, Château Beauval. It is held via a Belgian holding company, LAC International SPRL. The Leroys, although French, are themselves resident in Belgium, just across the border. They also own a renewable energy production company, Akisol, and another property development company, Immvestis.
Contacted, M6 and Akitania’s lawyer Patrick Ledouble declined to comment.