The move is described as “significant” for Portuguese producer Sogrape under the leadership of President Fernando da Cunha Guedes.
Sogrape, which counts Sandeman and Mateus among its portfolio, first took a minority stake in Liberty Wines in March 2017. Sogrape has a number of other brands in its portfolio including Casa Ferreirinha, Bodegas LAN from Spain, Chile’s Chateau Los Boldos and Argentina’s Finca Flichman.
The minority stake investment from Charles Heidsieck Champagne follows the success of this brand in the UK and Ireland since it joined the Liberty Wines portfolio seven years ago, along with the recent addition of Piper-Heidsieck and Rare Champagnes.
Sogrape and Liberty Wines have strong synergies: both are independently-owned companies with a focus on quality while a “consistent long-term approach” has delivered proven business success, the two companies said.
Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and Rare, which includes Biondi-Santi and Chateau La Verrarie, is also family owned and shares this focus.
Raquel Seabra, an executive board member of Sogrape, and Damien Lafaurie, president and chief executive officer of Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and rare, will join the Liberty Wines board.
David Gleave, co-founder of Liberty Wines, continues as managing director and remains a shareholder and Neville Abraham continues as chairman.
Andrew Knott, finance director, and Tom Platt, sales director, together with non-executive directors Michael Hill Smith, Vicki Nobles and John Ratcliffe, remain on the Board.
Gonçalo Sousa Machado, export director, is returning to Portugal later in the year. Non-executive director Riquet Hess retires.
In long-planned moves, Luciann Flynn, communications director, and Gary Wyatt, chief operating officer, have decided to step down from both the Board and their respective roles.
Fernando da Cunha Guedes, president, Sogrape said: “The UK is one of Sogrape’s priority markets and through Liberty Wines we are gaining significant visibility and representation for our wines, notably in the premium on-trade. We are delighted with their achievements over the past two years and are pleased to demonstrate our commitment by creating closer ties with David and the Liberty Wines team.”
Damien Lafaurie, president and chief executive of Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and Rare Champagne, said: “We are delighted to join Liberty Wines as a shareholder and to help it develop further. Having worked with Liberty Wines for seven years, it was natural for us to take part in its strategic alliance. We will support Liberty Wines’ talented, independent and ambitious team in further establishing the group’s leadership position in the UK, which is a strategic market for our Champagne houses.”
David Gleave, managing director, Liberty Wines said, “I would like to thank Liberty Wines’ longstanding shareholders, without whose support we would not have grown or developed as we have. On behalf of the Board, I’d particularly like to thank Luciann and Gary for their dedication and leadership, which has been integral to our success so far. Luciann and I co-founded Liberty Wines 22 years ago and Gary has been with the company for some 14 years. Both have contributed significantly to the culture and professionalism of our organisation.
“The attraction of Sogrape, Charles Heidsieck, Piper-Heidsieck and Rare was that the businesses are family owned and take a long-term view of the market. We also share a belief in quality from vineyard to glass, something which is reflected in the strong performance of our three businesses. At Liberty Wines, we have had our best results ever in this past financial year. We feel the strategic reasons behind our partnership are compelling and position us well to continue to meet our customers’ needs in this fast-paced market.”