Aug 25: Diageo which bought a majority stake in United Spirits from Vijay Mallya and landed with The Four Seasons Winery, had sold it finally to Grover Vineyards through Ravi Viswanathan, the PE investor from Singapore and the current majority shareholder and Chairman of Grover Zampa Vineyards, for Rs. 31.86 crores rupees, at a book loss of £2 million (Rs. 19.5 crore), writes Subhash Arora who had estimated the fair price at Rs. 30-35 crores
Diageo, the world’s leading spirits maker, incurred a loss of £2 million on the sale of its Indian wine business last year, the company’s annual report 2020 has said. It had sold the entire equity stake in The Four Seasons Wines as well as associated brands to Grover Zampa Vineyards and Quintela Assets for Rs 31.86 crore, according to The Telegraph, thus setting to rest speculation on the selling price of the unit which had great difficulty in finding a buyer due to high asking price initially of Rs. 60 Crores.
Diageo is ‘married’ to spirits but occasionally does flirt with wines. Although one may correctly assume that the Four Seasons fell into their lap even if they did not want it because it was a wholly owned subsidiary of United Spirits Ltd. (USL) but this was not the first encounter of Diageo with wines in India.
Diageo had introduced with much fanfare, another domestic label Nilaya in 2007. Produced by Mountain View and Renaissance Wineries in Nashik, the blue heaven failed to impress customers. The sales never picked up and within a couple of years the project was dropped when there was a change in the top management of the Indian company. All the capital investments were lost. They also had a miniscule share in the 280,000-case imported wine market where it had launched a range of foreign mass- selling labels like Blossom Hill, Barton & Guestier (B&G) and Piat d'Or but that business too was discontinued.
Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Winemaker and Head of Business for the Wine Division had bravely kept the Four Seasons plant running for one crush, till they could find a buyer. There being a few issues with the legal ownership of the land, most people scoffed at the initial reportedly asking price of Rs. 60 Crores which included the interest paid/payable to the banks and the liquid in the tank valued at market price of the bottled wine. The company had a couple of people showing interest after the asking price dropped to Rs. 40 Crores.
After prolonged negotiations Ravi Viswanathan bought the property including the labels like Four Seasons, Zinzi and Ritu (export label) etc. for an undisclosed amount (Viswanathan always avoided disclosing the price in the interviews with delWine). Diageo, being a public limited company had to announce the figure-which could also be ascertained from the Registrar of Companies office. DelWine had already reported about the ongoing negotiations on more than one occasion in delWine, before the deal was finalized.
The Four Seasons is a quaint property in the village named Roti in Baramati, Maharashtra. Built in a lavish style with extravagant frills befitting the tastes of Vijay Mallya, erstwhile Chairman of USL and is reminiscent of an opulent Bordeaux Chateau. It has a great scope for wine tourism and provides decent production capacity. It would be interesting to see what transformation will the investors bring, considering Grover is once again facing a financial crunch like before, forcing Kapil Grover to merge it with Valle de Vin and later inducting Ravi Viswanathan who went on to increase his stakes through Right Issues. This brought down the shareholdings of both the family of the founder-Kapil Grover and the shareholders of Valley de Vin-later known as Zampa wines that merged with Grover Vineyards.
The Four Seasons had been present in all the major markets including Delhi and even exported modest quantities but never became a really popular brand despite winning several medals in International Wine Competitions.
Though Ravi Viswanathan won’t commit to continuing with the brands but his body language tells us he is not keen- except perhaps The Four Seasons. Ritu was not well accepted in the overseas markets and Zinzi was an entry level label that did well in Goa and could still give a run for the money to labels promoted by Sula, Fratelli and even Grover’s existing labels in their portfolio.
For some of the earlier Articles, please visit:
Grover Zampa: Unstoppable Ravi Viswanathan buys Charosa, Four Seasons & Myra
Feature: Fifth Season at the Four Seasons Winery
Diageo spells Uncertainty for Four Seasons Wines
Four Seasons Wines Launched in Delhi
Diageo Launches Indian Wine
Booming Wine Market of India
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