Changes at Accolade Wines ahead of IPO

24th January, 2017 by Arabella Mileham

Accolade Wines CEO-in-waiting Michael East has taken over the top spot in the Australian wine company, it has been confirmed.

East was appointed to the role as deputy chief executive in August after outgoing CEO Paul Schaafsma signaled his intent to step down following Champ confirming it was planning to list Accolade on the IPO. Schaafsma has allegedly announced to the board he would remain in the role until the conclusion of Champ’s ownership, which is not expected to happen before the end of the first half of 2017.

According to papers filed at Companies House in the UK in November, Schaafsma ceased to be a director of the UK business on November 11, but a spokesman for the company at the time told db at the time this was merely “part of the ongoing transition”. However it was confirmed today that East, who joined the business in 2012 and became general manager of its Australian and Asian business, was officially appointed CEO in September, with a  handover period.

East, a former board member of the Winemaker Federation of Australia, has been at Accolade since 2012 and had taken an increasing role in the company in recent months, becoming its main spokesman as Accolade snapped up premium business Fine Wine Partners from his former company, Lion’s. He has also worked for the Liquor Merchants Association of Australia, Southcorp Wines and Pernod Ricard Australia.

Last night, Australian newspaper, the Australian Financial Review reported that Champ PE has also appointed its managing director Jim Anderson to head up the new board, however this has not been confirmed by the company.

The company was first rumoured to be mulling a public listing on the UK or Australian stock exchange as early as May, but only confirmed the speculation in August when it formally appointed Reunion Capital Partners as corporate advisors. Although Oz newspaper The Australian reported in October that a trade sale was likely, citing several Chinese companies as potential buyers, a spokesman told db the IPO was on track to take place towards the middle of 2017 following an “orderly, logical approach”.

Schaafsma, who was appointed general manager of the UK, Ireland and Global Partners business in 2012 before becoming CEO of the company in 2015, steered the company through major restructuring after its acquisition by private equity firm Champ in 2011. Before joining the Australian wine giant, he was the general manager UK and Europe of rival company Australian Vintage UK for eight years, after seven years running the domestic Australian business.

Accolade Wines is also ramping up its Australian-based bottling after unveiling plans to invest AU$40 million in a new bottling plant and warehouse in Berri, in South Australia’s Riverland region in the south of the country, which will end a reciprocal deal with Treasury Wine in Australia and the UK.

The company has sales of Aus $1b (£483m) per annum and its brands include top selling brands in the UK, Hardys, Echo Falls, Kumala and Banrock Station, along with more recent acquisitions Viña Anakena from Chile and New Zealand’s Mud House.

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