Vinopolis managing director Rupert Ellwood has today confirmed that he will be leaving the company to join Waitrose.
Ellwood will retire from the board with effect from 23 July. No successor has been announced.
He goes to Waitrose’s International Development team as manager of international growth, where his role will be to develop new customers and routes to market for overseas markets.
During his three-year tenure at Vinopolis Ellwood introduced innovations such as the Laughter Lounge – a monthly comedy night – to the 10-year-old wine centre.
This, along with corporate sponsorship and franchises, and special deals for stag and hen parties, was an attempt to shore up visitor numbers at the labyrinthine wine centre on London’s South Bank.
But the City of Wine, as Vinopolis describes itself, has proved to be the longest-lived of the world’s wine centres which boomed in the last decade.
It is in ruder health for example than the ill-fated Copia in Napa town, which went bankrupt in 2008, or the National Wine Centre in Adelaide, which was sold to the University of Adelaide for AUS$1m in 2003.
Under Ellwood’s direction Vinopolis has become one of the country’s biggest retailers of wine and spirits.
It hosts the Whisky Exchange, sells more absinthe than anywhere else in London, and its wine tour now includes the Bombay Sapphire Blue Room, an ‘Authentic Caribbean Rum Experience’ and a microbrewery.
He was also instrumental in sealing the deal that brought Laithwaites as the main Vinopolis retailer, in place of Majestic, earlier this year.
Sandy Anderson, chair of Vinopolis owners Wineworld London PLC, said, ‘On behalf of shareholders, I would like to thank Rupert for his hard work and dedication in making Vinopolis one of London’s most coveted venues.’
Ellwood himself said he was ‘proud to have achieved such success in making Vinopolis the fun and engaging visitor attraction and corporate events space it is today. I feel that this is the right time to leave for my next career move.’
Written by Adam Lechmere