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Accolade Wines (Australia)

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Accolade Wines is one of the world's leading premium wine companies. It is the #1 wine producer and exporter from Australia, and the local market leader in the UK, a key market for Australian wines. The business was formed in 2010 by the demerger of the Hardy Wine Company of Australia as well as various European businesses owned by US-based Constellation Brands. Since then it has expanded its portfolio with a series of acquisitions including several US wines. Key brands include Hardy's, Kumala, Atlas Peak and Stowell's. Private equity owner CHAMP had been expected to issue an IPO of the business in 2017; instead it sold it on in 2018 to US private equity firm Carlyle.


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Accolade's main rivals include Treasury Wine Estates, Constellation Wines and Pernod-Ricard. See Wine Beer & Spirits for other companies

The group was until recently controlled by Australian private equity group CHAMP, with an 80% shareholding. Constellation retained the remaining 20%. In 2018, the two owners agreed to sell on the business to another private equity investor, Carlyle Group, for A$1bn, or around $770m.

Accolade retains the distribution contract in Australia, South Africa and the UK for its former parent's portfolio of other brands, including Robert Mondavi, Paul Masson and Ravenswood. In a surprise development it agreed a partnership in 2012 with Australian rival Treasury Wine Estates whereby the two companies will bottle each others' product in Australia and the UK to reduce costs. That arrangement was extended to the US in 2013. However also in 2012 chief executive Troy Christensen left the company abruptly, and wasn't replaced until just over a year later by John Ratcliffe. He moved up in 2015 to chairman to be succeeeded by former UK general manager Paul Schaafsma.

Other senior managers include Steven Gorst (COO & CFO), Rob Harrison (general manager, UK & Ireland), Michael East (general manager, Australia, New Zealand & Pacific), Keith Todd (general manager, operations), Ricardo Letelier (general manager, Americas), Grant Viney (general manager, Asia Pacific), Ted Popov (general manager, EMEA). David Cunningham is chief marketing officer. Total volumes for 2015 were 45m cases, and sales are around A$1bn a year.

The Hardy Wine Company was acquired by Constellation 2003. One of Australia's leading producers and exporters of wine, its export brands include Hardys and its sub-brands Stamp of Australia and Nottage Hill, as well as Banrock Station. Other domestic and international brands include Houghton, Leasingham, Moondah Brook, Yarra Burn, Stonehaven, Stanley and Renmano. However, performance slumped at the end of the 2000s as a result of exchange rates and a global surplus of Australian wines. In 2010, Constellation announced the sale of Hardy to Australian private equity group Champ at a valuation of around $290m. It retained a 20% stake in the business (and also kept hold of Hardy's small collection of New Zealand brands). That deal also included the transfer to Champ of Kumala of South Africa, which Constellation had acquired previously. Following the sale to Champ, the old Constellation Europe business was rebranded as Accolade Wines, and subsequently expanded its portfolio with acquisitions including US fine wines Atlas Peak and Geyser Peak, and Chile's Vina Anakena. However, Hardys remains Accolade's top-selling global brand with volumes of 9.2m cases in 2011. In 2016, the group agreed to acquire the Fine Wine Partners division of Australian brewer and foods group Lion. Brands include Petaluma, Villa Maria and Wither Hills and local distribution in Australia of several other brands including Bollinger champagne.

Also included in the transaction was Constellation's remaining 50% stake in Matthew Clark, one of the UK's leading distributors of wines, beers and soft drinks. Originally a small importer, Clark mounted a series of ambitious acquisitions during the 1990s before running into difficulties mid-decade. It is the UK's biggest non-brewery-owned supplier to pubs and bars, distributing not only its own controlled and imported brands but also a wide range of other wines and spirits. Following the creation of Accolade, Matthew Clark became a joint venture with pubs operator Punch Taverns, which had already acquired a 50% holding in the business from Constellation. In 2015, both partners sold their shares in that business to independent UK distributor Conviviality for a sizeable profit.

The UK group's biggest brand is Stowell's, a pioneer in the UK of wine in boxes, originally for "on-trade" use in pubs and bars. These were launched into the consumer market in the 1980s, and Stowell's is now the UK's best-selling wine brand overall, although its biggest sector is the on-trade, which accounts for around three-quarters of sales. The group's best-selling wine through the UK take-home sector is Hardy's, which overtook Diageo's Blossom Hill in 2013 to become the top-seller overall, with sales of £315m in 2014 (Nielsen 52 weeks to Apr 2015, The Grocer). Echo Falls (£170m) and Kumala (£83m) are also among the top ten, with strong support from Banrock Station (£43m). Other brands include South Africa's Flagstone and New Zealand's Nobilo, Mudhouse and Waipara Hills.

The company's Grants of St James's Wines division is also the UK distributor of a number of well-known brands including Black Tower from Kendermann in Germany, Fortant de France from Skalli and Keo Wines from Cyprus. Other brands include Stone's Ginger Wine and Babycham. Matthew Clark was until recently also the UK's #2 cider producer (behind what is now Heineken UK) with brands including Blackthorn, Diamond White, Gaymer's Olde English and K. It sold that business at the end of 2009 to C&C Group, producer of Magners. Strathmore mineral water was sold to AG Barr in 2006.

Last full revision 11th October 2016

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