FromVineyardsDirect bought out of administration by rival wine site

UK wine retailer and delivery service FromVineyardsDirect.com has been bought out of administration by rival wine site, Mr Wheeler, which was founded by a former director of Lay & Wheeler.

Johnny Wheeler, chairman of The Wine Company (UK) Ltd, which has acquired FromVineyardsDirect out of administration

According to records filed at Companies House the South London-based wine delivery service appointed Colchester-based administrators CVR Global on 11 September, but was acquired in a pre-pack sale by The Wine Company (UK) Ltd (TWC), which trades as Mr Wheeler, for an undisclosed sum, saving four jobs and a number of consultancy roles.

Following the sale, the business will continue to trade as a division of TWC under the name FromVineyardsDirect, the administrators confirmed. 

From Vineyards Direct was founded in 2007 by Majestic founder and former Chateau de Sours director Esme Johnstone and wine publisher David Campbell, offering a range of high quality wines direct from vineyards in Europe, at a significantly lower price than through conventional wine merchants. It typically offered a 20% discount on wines, it said, and created a strong niche market in wines from small producers that were not readily available elsewhere, as well as wines declassified from leading châteaux at prices significantly below the château label price.

Last year the company reported a ‘significant turnaround’ in the company’s fortunes in the 12 months to 30 June 2017, following a reorganisation which had resulted in sales growth and turnover of £2.68 million, up from £2.2 million the previous year. EBITDA was recorded as £86,483 and operating losses fell from nearly £400,000 in 2016 to £77, 138. At the time, the company said it intended to raise funds to relaunch the website and fund growth.

However joint administrators Lee De’ath and Richard Toone of CVR Global LLP said the company had experienced “fluctuating profitability from inception” which had impacted working capital. 

Johnstone said the board had worked tirelessly to find a solution to the company’s financial difficulties and although it had been regrettable to put the company into administration, he was delighted that by working with the administrators, they had been able to find “the perfect buyer for the business”.

“We look forward to working with The Wine Company (UK) Limited to ensure that the FromVineyardsDirect brand continues to grow, providing exceptional wines to its loyal customers,” he said. 

TWC, trading as Mr Wheeler, was incorporated in 2014, but the family’s involvement in the wine industry dates back to 1883, when George Wheeler joined his uncle’s wine merchant business, which was subsequently renamed Lay & Wheeler.

TWC chairman Johnny Wheeler, who was a director at Lay & Wheeler between 2006 and 2009 when it was sold to Majestic Wines, said the acquisition was a good opportunity for TWC to extend its existing proposition and build on its successful growth over the last few years.  

“We have an intense period of marketing planned and look forward to working with management, staff and customers to grow the existing FromVineyardsDirect business,” he said. 

The acquisition is the latest in a host of changes on the high street, which has seen London-based Borough Wines restructure as a specialist kegged wine wholesaler, Oddbins poised to be acquired by the company that put it into administration earlier this year, Majestic sold to Japan-backed US private equity firm, Fortress and buyers circling fine wine business Lay & Wheeler which is currently being off-loaded by Naked Wines, following its sale of the Majestic retail business.

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