Naked Wines sells fine wine merchant Lay & Wheeler for £11.3m ($14m)

Business as usual Lay & Wheeler's American MD Katy Keating tells Decanter.com.

Fine wine merchant Lay & Wheeler is independent again after its owner Naked Wines finalised an £11.3m ($14m) sale to Coterie Limited, along with its warehousing and storage subsidiary Vinotheque Holdings Limited.

Lay & Wheeler – founded in Colchester, UK, in 1854 – is one of the country’s oldest wine merchants. It was purchased by Naked Wines PLC (then trading under Majestic PLC) for £6m in 2009.

‘Following the disposal of Majestic Retail and Commercial, I am delighted that we have also secured an independent future for Lay & Wheeler and its employees,’ commented Naked CEO Rowan Gormley.

‘I would like to thank all staff, customers and suppliers for their loyalty and continued dedication during the process. We look forward to our future as a much simplified and growth orientated company continuing to focus on the huge opportunity ahead of us,’ he added.

Speaking to Decanter.com Lay & Wheeler’s MD Katy Keating moved to reassure customers about the sale and says that new owners Coterie Limited are ‘very supportive of Lay & Wheeler and what we are doing.’ She described them as a ‘privately held family business,’ but would not go into further detail about the company.

‘They want us to continue what we’re doing and to be as hands off as possible,’ she told us. ‘We’ve been around since 1854 and we want to be around for another 160 years.’

Speaking about future plans for the business she added: ‘Moving forward we are continuing to invest in e-commerce and plan to make it even easier for our customers to enjoy our wines and build loyalty through our Cellar Circle club which gives customers benefits like free delivery and access to a fine wine advisor.’

Keating grew up on an organic farm on the outskirts of Philadelphia and has a background in tech start-ups in New York and London. She studied at Princeton University and Harvard Business School where she ran the wine and cuisine society. She has been MD at Lay & Wheeler since May 2016 after joining the company as Customer Director in January 2016.

Lay & Wheeler’s annual results (posted in June 2019) show growth for the merchant with reported sales up 22.7% and an annual turnover of £14.9m with an underlying adjusted EBIT of £1.2m, some 10% of the Naked Group’s underlying adjusted EBIT of £12.1 million.

In August this year the commercial and retail business of Majestic Wines was sold to Fortress investment group for £100 million so that Naked could continue its focus on online sales in the UK and America.

It’s understood that Lay & Wheeler customers can still have their orders delivered to Majestic Wine stores for collection if so required.