Champagne Bollinger’s Jérôme Philipon to leave at the end of 2019

Jérôme Philipon, the former president of Champagne brand Bollinger and COO of its holding company, Société Jacques Bollinger (SJB), is to leave the group at the end of this year.

Jerome-Philipon

Philipon, who has worked at the business for more than 12 years, took on a more senior position in 2017, which saw him leave Champagne Bollinger’s headquarter’s in Aÿ, near Epernay, to work in the group’s Paris office.

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business last week about the reasons for his departure, he stressed that it was his decision, but also that he was not taking up a new position at another business.

He cited a desire to spend more time at his family’s farm, but insisted that he was not retiring – pointing out that he is 57 years old.

He also intimated that he missed the more hands on role he had previously had as president of Champagne Bollinger, compared to his Paris-based position managing the holding company.

“I’m leaving after 12 years with the SJB group, and it really is my decision, I have weighed up the pros and cons over the last few months, and discussed it at length with [SJB chairman and Bollinger family member] Étienne Bizot, but I have decided I must move on, and lead a more balanced life,” he began.

Continuing, he told db, “I have a farm in France and I have not been able to take care of that in the last few years since I’ve been in Paris, it was easier when I was in Champagne.”

Looking back over an impressive but demanding career in branded perishable goods, he said, “I spent 10 years with Nestlé, 10 years with Coca Cola, and 12 years at Bollinger.”

However, suggesting that he felt more at home looking after the Bollinger Champagne house – and its sister maison, Ayala – he added, “My job at the holding company was less operational than when I was in charge of Bollinger and Ayala.”

Although he stressed that he wasn’t going to another job, he also stated, “I’m not going to retire”, commenting, “I’m certainly going to do something else in the course of 2020.”

He also made it clear to db that he wasn’t departing the business due to any problems in the group.

“The good thing is that Bollinger is in very good shape, with very good teams in place, so I’m not leaving at a difficult time.”

When asked about his legacy, he admitted that there were three things that he “was proud of” during his 12 years at Bollinger.

The first of these was his decision in 2008 to commission a new bespoke glass mould for Bollinger, called the 1846 bottle, which was first used in 2009, and has now been employed for all Champagnes in the range.

“It may not seem special, but it has given us the opportunity to totally renovate the production facilities at Bollinger… it has been a €25 million investment which has been very helpful for the house,” he said, referring to to many changes, including a totally new reserve wine facility.

Secondly, he mentioned his work to create “a more balanced portfolio of wines” at Bollinger, in terms of production and distribution.

“We have really developed Grande Année and RD, and we launched Bollinger Rosé in 2008; before Bollinger was really based on Special Cuvée, and the others contributed in a very limited way, so we have changed a lot.

“And we have a better balanced in where we sell Bollinger – it was very dependent on the British market, but we are much stronger today in countries like Japan, Australia, Italy, Spain and the US… so we have a more balanced portfolio of wines and countries.”

Finally, he described his third key achievement as one that is “very dear to me”, and this regards internal relations among the employees at Bollinger.

“Sometimes we had very different relations in Champagne with the workforce, there are very strong unions, and there were often strikes, but we have had none for the past seven years now, and that’s because I really wanted to modernise the relationship [between the management and the workforce], and I’m very proud of that, we have a stable and modern way of engaging with the team,” he concluded.

Following Philipon’s departure, Bizot will assume the role of COO, as well as chairman of SJB, although it is believed that the group will be looking for a replacement during the course of next year.

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