New owners of Thierry’s will stick to core business

09 November, 2012

The new owners of the Thierry’s wine shipper will place heavy emphasis on its core business of selling Old World wines to the multiple off-trade.

Industry speculation about the future of Thierry’s ended with the company being bought by an investment fund called Key4Performance, which will operate the importer under the new name Watermill Wines.

It will be based at Thierry’s Romsey, Hampshire, offices, and all 20 of its staff have been retained.

Buying directors Dominique Vrigneau and Lindsay Talas have been kept on to manage the wine side of the business, with managing director Hatim Dungarwalla playing a role in its strategic management.

But none have equity in the new business or a seat on the new board.

Shareholders in Watermill include chairman Richard Baizley – a director of the corporate finance group KKVMS called in by the Thierry’s management to advise on the future of the business – and his colleague Hussein Khanbhai.

Baizley told OLN that the other investors were from drinks industry-related backgrounds but wished to retain anonymity.

“They’re not pure wine people, but they have been involved in beverages and the supermarket industry, so they understand wine very well,” Baizley said.

“We’re going back to basics and the things Thierry’s is historically very good at, which are sourcing, blending and shipping wine and managing relationships with suppliers and customers.

“Its big strength has been in Old World, with forays into the New World. “Having said that, we won’t be saying no to any customer, producer or area – every existing relationship we have is sacrosanct.”

He said Watermill would look for higher-margin business which was likely to include a role for Thierry’s own brands including Radcliffe’s.

“We don’t want to be a shipper of bog-standard, bulk wine,” he said.

Baizley acknowledged that Thierry’s had been the source of fervent speculation in recent months.

“There’s been a lot of noise and it’s fair to say that some was exaggerated and some was based on fact,” he added.

Baizley described the old company’s cashflow situation as “interesting” but said that it “wasn’t technically insolvent”. He added: “It had a very good balance sheet and underlying everything was a very sound core business.

“A key attraction for us was the knowledge and skills of the existing management. Putting their expertise together with our own in other areas – and those of the other investors – is very exciting.”

Thierry’s had taken steps to stream-line its business before bringing in KKVMS, including a redundancy pro- gramme which reduced its UK headcount from an average of 36 in its 2010/11 financial year, according to documents filed at Companies House.

Accounts for the year to June 30, 2011 showed a post-tax profit of £156,611, after a loss of £1,571 the previous year, though turnover slumped from £45.4 million in 2009/10 to £27.4 million in 2010/11.

Thierry’s was founded in 1981 by restaurateur Thierry Cabanne, who died in a car crash in September 2007.

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