Villa Maria’s Sir George Fistonich takes a step back

The founder of New Zealand’s Villa Maria, Sir George Fistonich, is stepping back from the day-to-day running of the wine estate after 55 years at the helm, announcing the appointment of Abe Salt as its first chief executive officer.

Sir George Fistonich founded Villa Maria Estate in 1961

Salt will take over from 5 March reporting to Sir George, who is stepping back from the day to day running of the business, but will continue to have a “hands-on role in the company as founder and president”.

“Due to Villa Maria’s success as a major player globally, my ambassador role has become extremely time consuming”, said Sir George Fistonich, explaining the changes.

“As the CEO, Abe will be able to manage the important day to day operations and strategic priorities for the company. This will allow me to concentrate on my global brand ambassadorial role and drive other large projects such as the development of our new winery and retail centre in Hawkes Bay.”

Salt joins Villa Maria with 15 years’ experience of working across the wine industry, investment banking and in strategic advisory roles. Most recently, Abe was principal at Iron Gate Consulting where he focused on providing strategic advice to the wine industry.

Prior to this, Salt spent more than five years at Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) where he was global head of strategy, with experience of working with luxury brands, such as Penfolds.

During his time at TWE, Salt implemented key strategic changes for the business, serving on the steering committee for TWE’s global supply chain optimization program, driving route to market changes in key regions.

He was also responsible for delivering TWE’s annual five-year plan, including sales and marketing plans by brand and region, and in New Zealand led TWE’s acquisition of its Matua Marlborough winery.

He is described as an “avid wine enthusiast” having taken wine education courses with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and University of Adelaide, and has also participated in a wide range of social wine education programs such as International Chardonnay and Pinot Masterclasses, and holds degrees in Law and Commerce and post-graduate qualifications in finance.

“I am delighted that we have found someone with such a passion for wine together with a wealth of experience in FMCG global strategy”, said Sir George Fistonich. “We are thrilled to have Abe join us for Villa Maria’s next chapter and help us build on our successes to date.”

Villa Maria is distributed in the UK via sole agent Hatch Mansfield.

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