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Business as usual as Torbreck in receiver’s hands

Cult Australian winery Torbreck is in the hands of the receivers as a direct result of the catastrophic collapse of the owners' marriage.

The Barossa winery quickly gained a world-class reputation when it was started in 1994 by husband and wife team David and Christine Powell. It produces 7,000 cases a year – its reds were described by Robert Parker as having ‘riveting individuality and extraordinary purity and symmetry.’

But for the last year and a half the Powells’ marriage – and business partnership – has been less than idyllic. As a result, the company is now being administered by accountants KPMG.

‘Basically the two shareholders have been at each other’s throats. We can’t reach an agreement,’ David Powell told decanter.com.

The couple – who are now divorced – were on the point of reaching a deal consisting of a AU$2m (€1.12m) buyout by David. But Christine allegedly demanded the money up front instead of in instalments, causing the deal to collapse.

‘My ex-wife then put a voluntary administration in place, as was her right as a director,’ Powell said.

The receiver-manager, KPMG, immediately reappointed Powell as manager, so he is now running the winery as normal. The 2003 harvest will not be affected.

As to the future, Powell said there are several groups interested in investing in, or buying, the company. He says no other wineries are interested.

‘It will be 10 years at least before the brand can stand on its own without me involved,’ he said. ‘Until then, no other brand would want to take us on.’

He also said they were very lucky to have two outstanding harvests behind them. Production doubled in 2001 and again in 2002, so the winery is healthy in everything but its warring directors.

Powell himself stressed that he would stick with the winery whatever happened. ‘They’ll have to get an elephant gun to put me down if they want to get rid of me,’ he said.

Written by Adam Lechmere16 October 2002

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