The big interview: Dan Jago

Having joined Berry Bros & Rudd after successfully heading Tesco’s wine business, Dan Jago has had to make sweeping changes to bring the company back into the black. But now, he tells Patrick Schmitt MW, the merchant has a bright future.

Brand Dan is strong – strong enough to survive an accounting scandal at Tesco

Everything is of course harder when you’re tired, but I don’t recommend meeting Dan Jago after a bad night’s sleep. Now at the helm of two great British institutions, Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) and the WSTA, he’s a force that requires the full attention of anyone in his company. And having spent more than an hour interviewing him, and keeping up with his repartee, as well as laughing at his jokes, it dawns on me that fewer than five hours’ sleep just isn’t enough for this intense personality (I had been up early for a radio interview before meeting Dan later at the BBR offices in London’s St James’s).

Mixing puppy-like enthusiasm for drinks with serious pronouncements on a range of issues, along with an openness and warmth rarely present in industry leaders, there’s a lot to admire and like about Dan, although his quick humour can be acerbic, and he certainly has no shortage of self-confidence.

Breaking with the drinks business house style, which refers to people by surnames, it seems only right to also reflect Dan’s informal manner by using his first name in this article.

Dan, too, is one of those industry figures who regularly gets ‘profiled’. That’s partly because of the illustrious nature of the positions he has held, particularly as group wine director at Tesco, which made him Britain’s biggest wine buyer, until he left in September 2015. But it’s also because, one suspects, he relishes the exposure from courting the press, and he’s adept at managing it.

Brand Dan is strong – strong enough to survive an accounting scandal at Tesco, which saw him suspended, reinstated, and, it should be stressed, completely cleared of any wrongdoing. Physically too, he is robust, looking younger than 56.

Although Dan is the new chairman of the WSTA, and will help steer the wine and spirits trade through the uncertain waters of drinks importing and exporting after Brexit, our main interest in him concerns his role as head of BBR, a wine merchant everyone in the trade knows by name, but, one suspects, not by nature.

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