Rowan Gormley will step down as Naked Wines CEO after the Christmas trading season and once the group’s sale of Majestic Wine to private equity group Fortress has been completed.
He will hand over the reins to Nick Devlin, the current chief operating officer at Naked Wines.
‘A startup guy’
Gormley founded Naked Wines 10 years ago and the announcement of his impending ‘retirement’ from the company will come as a surprise to many in the UK trade.
But, the company said that it had been planning ‘a succession process’ for 18 months.
‘I am a startup guy, and Nick is the perfect leader for the next chapter of growth,’ said Gormley, who added that he will remain a ‘material shareholder’ in the group.
‘Now it is time to hand over to a new team. It takes one set of skills to take a business from zero to £200m of revenues, and it takes a different set of skills to build it from there.’
He highlighted a ‘huge opportunity’ for Naked Wines to grow its US business and said that Devlin had driven strong growth in that market over the last two years.
Half-year sales rise, losses deepen
News of Gormley’s departure came as Naked reported rising sales but deepening losses for the first half of its current financial year.
It reported a total net loss after tax of £6.4m / $8.3m for the 26 weeks to 30 September.
Its loss before tax on continuing operations – excluding businesses subject to sale or disposal – was £6.2m, versus a comparable loss of £5.1m a year earlier.
However, Naked said that it was confident in its growth plan following this year’s announcement that it would split from Majestic; the latter bought Naked in 2015 with Gormley becoming CEO of the newly enlarged business.
Naked said net sales from continuing operations for its recent half-year rose by 15.6% to £87.5m. Total net sales, including ‘discontinued’ business related to Majestic and Lay & Wheeler, rose by 1.7% to £233.1m.
The group added that disposals would ‘deliver a strong balance sheet and net cash position’ after it has met debt repayments.
Focus on the US
It highlighted that it wishes to focus on the US market, where half-year net sales rose by 24%.
Incoming CEO Nick Devlin said; ‘Naked has an exciting opportunity ahead to build on its community that connects over half-a-million wine drinkers with over 200 of the world’s leading independent winemakers.
‘I have been a part of that community for four years and overseen the rapid growth of the US operations for the past three.
‘Naked has never been in better shape and we now have the internal capability, clarity of purpose and financial resources to take the business through its next chapter of growth.’