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Lay & Wheeler md Keating steps down

Katy Keating, the US-born Harvard graduate who helped turn around the fortunes of fine wine merchant Lay & Wheerler, has stepped down from the role of md, db has learned.

According to papers filed at Companies House, Keating stood down as a director at the end of May, with Lay & Wheeler confirming that the chair of the board, Erica Sugai, has taken over the MD role on an interim basis while the company searches for a permanent replacement. Sugai, who is also American, was appointed as a director in October 2019 following the merchant’s acquisition by private international company Coterie Limited for £11.3 million, and has been been involved in the strategic vision of the company since then, a spokesman added.

Keating joined the business in January 2016  as part of a major strategic overhaul under then-owners, Naked Wines, who had bought Lay & Wheeler’s parent company, Majestic Wines Plc the previous year. She remained at the helm as the company returned to private ownership for the first time in 15 years, (it is reportedly owned by American businessman David Stern), telling the the drinks business she wanted to “bring the company back into the spotlight” under the new private owners, as well as bolstering its growing e-commerce site and expanding the range.

During her tenure, she introduced a better balance of en primeur sales and the company’s other activities, and broadened the range, as well as boosting the team with eight new team members, including bringing in a new director of private sales Simon Staples from Berry Bros. & Rudd and Catherine Petrie MW Goedhuis & Co. Plans were drawn up for the new state-of-the-art warehouse and company headquarters, which were completed last summer.

Following the  “transformational” year in 2021, when sales rose by 57%, last year was more muted, with Lay & Wheeler reporting revenues up nearly 10% to £27.075 million in the year to March 2022, although falling en primeur yields and the upfront costs involved in moving to the own warehouse hit profits. The tough trading environment in the first half of 2023, including impact of rising costs on consumer spending, a downturn in en primeur yields and demand for in-year vintages had resulted in revenue growth behind budget, albeit ahead of the previous year.

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