Japan’s Suntory group has bought a majority stake in China’s leading premium wine importer, ASC Fine Wines, for an undisclosed sum.
The deal, subject to the approval of China’s anti-monopoly bureau, will see Suntory buy a 70% stake in ASC from a company owned by Gernot Langes-Swarovski, of Swarovski Crystal.
Japanese drinks wholesaler Kokubu will acquire a further 10% holding.
On completion of the deal, ASC co-founder Don St Pierre Snr will retire from the company, but his son Don Jnr will stay on as CEO and retain a ‘significant amount of equity’ in the company.
ASC said its senior management team would stay in place, adding, ‘Suntory views ASC as a long-term strategic asset and plans to fully support ASC’s future expansion plans.
‘The market demand for quality wines in China is expected to return to growth in 2010, and ASC is better positioned than any other company to deal with both the great opportunities and challenges China presents.’
Founded in 1996, ASC has been a prime mover in China’s recent fine wine boom, representing more than 100 leading brands, including Bollinger, Gaja, Beringer, E Guigal and Robert Skalli.
The company has more than 800 staff and 12 regional offices, opening a base in Hong Kong months after the territory scrapped wine duties last year.
The company was the biggest buyer of 2007 Château Latour, and CEO Don St Pierre Jr was ranked 16th in this year’s Decanter Power List of the wine world’s most influential figures.
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Written by Richard Woodard