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Wednesday, June 1, 2011, 9:01 am

Crimson Wine Group acquires Seghesio

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    Peter Seghesio

    Pete Seghesio

    Ted Seghesio

    Ted Seghesio

    Seghesio VineyardsHEALDSBURG — Napa-based Crimson Wine Group, a portfolio of several premium red wine brands owned by a New York investment company with $9.3 billion in assets, has acquired zinfandel-focused Seghesio Vineyards and most of the Seghesio family’s 300 acres of vines in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley for an undisclosed sum.

    The deal gives Crimson, owned by Leucadia National Corp., a zinfandel brand and almost doubles the production volume of the portfolio.

    “Much like the best things in life, it’s always serendipitous when you find a great match in business or in your personal endeavors,” Chief Executive Officer Pete Seghesio said in a statement. “Crimson Wine Group represented just that, a company and team whose philosophy towards nurturing brands, along with vision, a strong distribution network and access to capital, would allow us to grow to the next level, a level that business on a family scale would have difficulty attaining on its own.”

    Mr. Seghesio will remain with the organization as winegrower, overseeing day-to-day operations, and his winemaker cousin and brand founder Ted Seghesio will stay in that position. The family will retain ownership of a few vineyards.

    Crimson Chief Executive Officer Erle Martin said he doesn’t plan to change what has made the brand successful, including spots on Wine Spectator magazine’s Top 100 wines list for six of the past 10 years.

    “We want to keep the heart and soul of the winery intact with the family, who will continue to inform the vision and create its success,” he said.

    “They are selling from a position of strength,” said Jeff Menashe of San Francisco-based Demeter Group, the family’s  representative in the deal, which was  completed Tuesday night after discussions since early this year. The family wine company has “very healthy margins and thoughtful sourcing strategy” that will benefit from Crimson’s distribution relationships and international reach, he said.

    The Seghesio family has been making wine from the ranch since 1902 and started the family wine brand in 1983. In the mid-1990s, the third generation of Seghesios assumed the helm, creating national distribution and scaling back production from 130,000 cases to heighten quality. Production has ramped back up to about 100,000 cases a year.

    The estate properties Crimson Wine Group owns include Pine Ridge Vineyards on 188 acres in Napa Valley, Chamisal Vineyards on 97 acres in the Edna Valley region of California, Archery Summit on 119 acres in Oregon’s Willamette Valley winegrowing region and 611 acres in Columbia Valley in Washington, with 85 acres planted in vines. Group sales in 2010 were $23.6 million for just more than 111,000 cases, up from $20.7 million in 2009 and surpassing the $22.1 million of 2008, according to the Leucadia annual report.

    The group’s wine club has more than 11,000 members and is the most profitable part of Crimson’s business, according to the Leucadia report.

    “There are deals getting done with iconic wineries at strategic multiples [of EBITDA] in what’s been a very tough environment,” Mr. Menashe said. “The subtheme is the multiples the industry has been known for are still out there, but they will be achieved by fewer and fewer wineries. The number of strategic buyers probably has waned from previous years, but new folks have been coming up.”

    He pointed to buyers in deals Demeter has done in the past few years such as Huneeus Vintners with Saldo, The Prisoner and Flowers and Stewart Resnick with Justin.

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