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Breaking: Naked Wines’ Rowan Gormley to step down

Naked Wines boss Rowan Gormley has announced he will step down from the online wine company after Christmas, claiming he is “a startup guy” rather than the one to build the online business in the US.

Naked Wines founder Rowan Gormley is to step down after Christmas

The surprise announcement this morning has apparently been planned for 18 months, with current COO Nick Devlin set to step into the top job.

It comes at the end of turbulent period for the company, which has seen the Majestic UK retail and commercial business sold to Japanese-owned US equity firm Fortress Bank for £95million, along with fine wine arm Lay & Wheeler sold to an international private company, Coterie Limited, for £11.3 million, in order to concentrate on building Naked Wines’ US ambitions.

Gormley said he was delighted that Devlin would be taking over, calling it the conclusion of a two-year long process to reconfigure Naked to enable it to fulfil its potential.

Naked has a huge opportunity in the US, he said, due to its position as a huge, growing and highly profitable market, with the direct to consumer segment “under-penetrated”, which suggested “significant untapped demand”. He added that the Naked model was “uniquely configured” to take advantage and the step taken to do so, – simplifying the model to a purely online subscription, raising capital and building the right team – was now mostly achieved, pending the finalisation of the sales of Majestic and Lay & Wheeler.

He argued that it “takes one set of skills to take a business from zero to £200m of revenues, and it takes a different set of skills to build it from there”, saying Devlin was “the perfect leader for the next chapter of growth”, having built the US business over the last two years.

Devlin was promoted to the role of COO in June, when Naked Wines announced it was bolstering its top team with the appointment of US retail heavyweight John Walden, the executive chairman of Holland & Barrett, and former Homebase and Argos boss as the new chairman. Walden replaced Gregg Hodder in August.

In addition to the changes on the board, two new roles are being created to develop strategic partnerships in the US and winemaker relations worldwide.

Devlin said the company now  had the “internal capability, clarity of purpose and financial resources to achieve Naked’s full potential”.

I’m looking forward to working closely with the management team to harness this platform and build a business of significant scale,” he said.

The announcement came as the company reported it was on track in the first half of the financial year, although losses after tax widened to £6.4 million, on the back of investment in new customers.

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