Bollinger Champagne owner invests in BI wine merchant

UK-based merchant BI Wines & Spirits has said it expects to expand its LiveTrade platform after the owner of Bollinger Champagne bought a minority stake in the group.  

Société Jacques Bollinger, the family-owned holding company behind Bollinger and Ayala Champagnes plus Chanson Père & Fils in Burgundy, has bought a minority stake in BI.

Neither party would disclose specifics or financial details, but the ‘long-term’ investment is significant enough for SJB to command a seat in the BI boardroom.

Both companies spoke of benefits from the deal, which a BI spokesperson stressed was not a signal of any financial difficulties.

SJB said that it hopes to gain better insight into fine wine buyers, while BI said the extra investment would help to grow its online trading platform, LiveTrade.

Etienne Bizot, chairman and CEO of SJB, described the investment as a ‘long-term strategic move’.

He said, ‘It will allow us to propose unique tailor-made experiences that will enable consumers to interact with our wines and our wineries.’

Andrew Hawes, MD of Mentzendorff, the importer that handles SJB wines in the UK, highlighted the French firm’s investment in fine wine tourism in recent years and said the BI investment would give SJB more insight into consumers and the market in general.

Giles Cooper, a spokesperson for BI, said the merchant was looking at several ways to expand LiveTrade, including by buying more stock and by developing new features, such as an app.

He said the tie-up wasn’t expected to affect day-to-day business or negatively impact stocks of non-SJB wines. For example, he said Champagne in general was a growing sector for BI, adding, ‘We sold £12m of Champagne last year and we’ve no intention of holding that back.’

BI was founded in 1997 by Gary Boom and is chaired by businessman Michael Spencer, founder of ICAP – which later became Nex Group – in the City of London. Nex was bought by US-based CME Group last year, with Spencer joining the CME board.