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Bordeaux operation ‘could help’ Crushpad clients

Recent clients of embattled California custom winemaking business Crushpad Inc could be helped out by the company's former Bordeaux operation, it has been revealed.

The move follows the decision by Crushpad to call in US administrators, holding a public auction in San Francisco today (7 August) to sell off company assets, including wine produced by clients in the 2010 and 2011 vintages.

The company hopes to find a single bidder for its assets, to protect as far as possible the wines and money put in by more than 500 private clients at its winemaking facility in Sonoma.

Among the expected bidders is CastleGate Investment Services, a private equity firm which recently acquired Crushpad’s debt from Silicon Valley Bank, and which has expressed interest in resurrecting the company as entity able at least to finish existing client wines.

An email, sent to clients and seen by decanter.com, said: ‘The auction will be for 100% of the assets of the company in an all-or-nothing sale designed to prevent a piecemeal liquidation and allow a restructured Crushpad to emerge.’

Clients have reported difficulties for months in getting access to their wines, with some unpaid suppliers and growers reportedly holding on to wines as collateral against unpaid bills.

However, the situation is not affecting Crushpad’s soon to be renamed Bordeaux operation, now a stand-alone entity after being bought by the Cazes family of Château Lynch Bages.

CEO Stephen Bolger told decanter.com that the now separate business was looking at how it could help 2012 clients of the US operation, who might have put down deposits on barrels or paid entirely upfront, but have no wine to even attempt to reclaim.

‘We recognise our heritage and the value of all winemaking clients,’ Bolger said.

‘We are looking at how affected US clients could make their own Bordeaux wine by applying the value of their 2012 down payment towards Bordeaux barrel production, with a guarantee of completion by the Cazes family.

‘But that decision is not ours to make – it is to be made by the future owner of Crushpad US. We will let the final bidder know that we are on hand to give them some breathing space if needed, and to allow them to prepare for the 2013 harvest.’

Crushpad CEO Peter Ekman has reportedly resigned, with operations director Steve Ryan remaining as consultant during the legal process.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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