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Vinfolio seeks bankruptcy protection

Vinfolio, the San Francisco-based internet wine retailer and fine wine service provider, has sought protection from bankruptcy.

Launched in 2003 by former financier Steve Bachmann, the company has filed an assignment, an alternative to formal bankruptcy which involves appointing a third party (an ‘assignee’) to monetise assets for the benefit of creditors.

At the same time Jon Moramarco – former CEO of Constellation Brands, and now head of wine industry consultants BW 166 – is trying to save the business.

He plans to propose a business plan that will allow him to bid for Vinfolio’s assets, now held by Sherwood Partners, the Assignee.

‘Our interest is in trying to maintain the business model of Vinfolio,’ he said.

Rumours of Vinfolio’s situation arose in mid-January, when a client posted a message about a bounced cheque on eRobertparker.com.

The ensuing discussion attracted thousands of views and ultimately, a response from Vinfolio CEO Steve Bachmann, who admitted on his own blog that the company had faced an acute cash flow crisis and could not obtain the necessary short-term capital injection to keep it going.

Bachmann deferred all comment to Moramarco.

As of January 22, several Vinfolio clients told decanter.com they were anxious to remove their wine from the company’s warehouses – although they had been told it was safe – and that they had heard those who bought futures or pre-release wine were told they might lose their investment.

While he refused to discuss Vinfolio, Martin Pichinson, co-managing member of Sherwood Partners, said whenever the company is involved as an assignee, ‘it is a sad situation.’

In addition to its new Hong Kong office, Vinfolio has partnership arrangements with various parties including jancisrobinson.com and CellarTracker, an online inventory management system.

‘Vinfolio has earned a stellar reputation over the past five years, so I am surprised and disappointed by these recent developments,’ said Eric LeVine, CEO of CellarTracker.

‘My main interest is to see Vinfolio make whole any customers that I have referred to them via the Vinfolio Marketplace. I have been very proactive about contacting customers I share with Vinfolio.’

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Written by Maggie Rosen

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