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Sotheby’s global wine chairman to join BlockBar startup

Jamie Ritchie is to step down from his role as worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s Wine and Spirits and will take up a senior position with BlockBar, a digital marketplace for high-end wines and spirits backed by blockchain technology, the startup has announced.

BlockBar said today (19 April) that Jamie Ritchie will join the firm as COO in July this year, in a move that will also see Ritchie leave Sotheby’s after 32 years with the major auction house and retailer.

He is currently worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s wines and spirits, and his upcoming arrival at BlockBar marks a significant appointment for the digital marketplace, which was founded in October 2021 by Dov and Sam Falic.

The startup specialises in sourcing high-end wines and spirits directly from producers.

These are also authenticated by blockchain technology and sold on the group’s platform, with bottle owners also offered storage at its facility in Singapore, plus insurance and global shipping, as well as a marketplace on which to resell their wines and spirits, if they choose.

Every bottle sold on the platform is accompanied by a digital version – similar to a non-fungible token (NFT) – which can be sourced back to the winery or distillery and may also be resold, gifted or redeemed for the physical bottle at any time, according to the company.

Dov Falic, co-founder and CEO of BlockBar, said, ‘Jamie Ritchie is recognised worldwide as a leader in the wine and spirits industry, and we are delighted and honoured that he is joining our team.’

Falic added, ‘More people than ever are purchasing liquid assets, both for consuming with friends and for investment, and BlockBar simplifies the purchase process.

‘Based on the tremendous response to the unique bottles offered on our platform during our first year of operations, we are very confident about BlockBar’s rapid growth and we project significant revenue multiples over the next few years.’

Payments can be made via credit card or ETH, it said, referencing the Ethereum digital currency.

Ritchie said that he was ‘looking forward to a new challenge and adventure’ following 32 years of ‘being part of the team behind the growth of Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits business’.

He has helped to significantly expand Sotheby’s’ Wine and Spirits division, which saw record auction sales of $150m (£121m) in 2022.

The auction house has signed several new partnerships in recent years, such as with the annual Hospices de Beaune sale in Burgundy and Napa Valley Vintners in California, while also expanding live auctions to France and offerings wines sourced direct from prestigious producers’ cellars.

Ritchie has also been a strong proponent of digital transformation, a process that was necessarily accelerated during Covid-related social restrictions.

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