Swap Shop Owner Preston Henn Suing Ferrari for Defamation
Preston Henn in 1998.
Photo by Melissa Jones
Recently, Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop owner Preston Henn decided he wanted to buy a new, limited edition Ferrari valued at $2 million. You know, like regular people do.
Ferrari, however, refused to sell it to this generally chill and normal dude — which grievously offended him. After all, Henn has been collecting Ferraris for close to 50 years and owns something called the 06558 275 GTB/C Berlinetta Speciale, which is worth an estimated $100 million.
So, he got some friends to ask Ferrari what was up. Those friends were told that Henn, who is 85 and lives in Hillsboro Beach, was not qualified to purchase the car.
Henn reacted in the only logical way: He mailed the CEO of Ferrari a check for $1 million. With it, he included a letter from his lawyer, Bruce Rogow. “You know his 06558 275 GTB/C Berlinetta Speciale,” Rogow wrote. “What a shame it would be to shun him now.”
Apparently, Ferrari was not impressed. Henn received a chilly reply from Enrico Galliera, senior vice president of marketing, saying that all units had already been sold and asking him not to send checks directly to the company anymore.
Big mistake, Enrico Galliera! Henn promptly sued for defamation, seeking at least $75,000 in damages “for reputational injury and the mortification caused by declaring him to be not qualified to purchase a LaFerrari Spider.” The complaint argues, “The publication of the statement that Preston Henn is not qualified to purchase a LaFerrari Spider is an untrue statement which harms Henn’s reputation, and holds him up to ridicule, disrespect, and disrepute in his profession, trade, occupation, avocation, and among his friends and business and social associates.”
Ferrari does not comment on pending litigation. And Henn, who New Times long ago crowned “Sultan of Swap,” didn’t respond to messages left at his home number. A Swap Shop employee said that “he doesn’t take phone calls from nobody.”
Rogow, however, who filed the lawsuit, was available to talk. He teaches law at Nova Southeastern University and is best known for his civil rights work but has also represented Henn for the past 30 years. “It’s a very unique kind of defamation case,” he says. “We’re talking about his reputation in a very special community in which he operates. Usually, you don’t have any kind of claim if a company won’t sell you something. But he’s historically been the number one Ferrari person in the country. If it was me and they said, ‘You’re not qualified,’ they’d probably be right. He’s in a different universe.”
Rogow theorizes that age discrimination was at work. “I guess Ferrari has come up with some concept that they don’t want older people, in this case an old man, driving their cars,” he says.
Whether or not that’s the case, Rogow says, “This is just an 85-year-old man who wants the satisfaction of collecting something special.” And if he can’t have that satisfaction, then what does America stand for, anyway?
Here's the full complaint:
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