Majestic Wine sold to private equity firm Fortress

Majestic Wine is set to overhaul its store network after the company was sold to US private equity firm Fortress Investment Group for a reported £100m.

The deal, announced this morning (2nd August 2019), includes Majestic’s 180-plus UK stores, its two shops in France, plus its on-trade division and company headquarters.

In an open email to the UK wine trade, the Majestic board outlined its vision for future growth, saying: ‘Fortress are not buying a retailer in distress, but rather one which is growing sales, customer base and market share. But we know we need to do more.’

The plans include a full range review, currently being conducted by the company’s new buying and merchandising director, ex-Tesco BWS director Robert Cooke, and focused on ‘getting back to what Majestic has historically done best’.

Majestic’s retail stores will be extensively refitted, abandoning its traditional warehouse look of piled wine boxes in favour of shelving and tasting areas, which the company said would make its stores ‘easier to navigate’.

A new service called Wineify will be launched, using eight wines to ‘gauge a customer’s palate’ and direct them to different styles of wine either in-store or online.

Majestic also announced plans to open a new store in south-east London, scheduled for September.

‘After nearly 40 years’ trading, the Majestic name came closer than ever before to disappearing,’ the board said. ‘We’re determined not to let that happen again, to continue to be the nationwide specialist we truly believe the UK needs – the vital bridge between indies and supermarkets, and a pivotal route to the British market for producers across the globe.’

Majestic managing director Joshua Lincoln added that he had received ‘thousands of emails’ from concerned customers when it was announced that the chain might be closed or rebranded in March this year. ‘It made finding a suitable buyer for the business crucial,’ he said.

Founded in 1980, Majestic sold more than 37m bottles of wine, spirits and beer last year, with a total turnover of just over £300m.

Fortress Investment Group is a global investment firm managing combined assets worth almost US$40bn at the end of March 2019. The Majestic purchase marks the company’s entry into the UK retail sector.

The sale of Majestic is a key part of the transformation of the combined Majestic/Naked Wines business, which will see the remainder of the company focus on online sales and the continued development of Naked Wines.

The deal was welcomed by Majestic shareholder Gatemore Capital Management, which has a 3.8% stake in the business, with managing partner Liad Meidar expressing ‘excitement’ about Naked Wines’ future prospects.

The news comes a day after reports suggested that Majestic is also set to sell off fine wine merchant Lay & Wheeler, with a deal likely to close in the next few weeks for about £10m.