• Division renamed Accolade Wines
  • CHAMP plans to invest behind brands
  • Appoints Christensen as Accolade CEO
Constellation Brands sells overseas wine assets to CHAMP Private Equity

Constellation Brands sells overseas wine assets to CHAMP Private Equity

Constellation Brands has completed the sale of its Australian and UK wine operations to CHAMP Private Equity for AUD290m (US$290m).

Sydney-based CHAMP has renamed the business Accolade Wines, the two companies said today (1 February). US-based Constellation will retain a 20% stake in the entity and its previous head of wine operations in Australia and Europe, Troy Christensen, will stay on as Accolade's CEO.

The deal, announced just before Christmas, covers the vast majority of Constellation's overseas wine assets, including BRL Hardy in Australia, the Kumala wine brand in South Africa and a 50% stake in UK drinks supplier Matthew Clark - the other 50% is owned by Punch Taverns.

A slump in profits amid a tough time for the Australian wine industry has meant that Constellation accepted a price significantly below the AUD1.85bn fee it paid to acquire BRL Hardy back in 2003. The New York-based wine giant plans to plough more resources into its more profitable US wine operations.

CHAMP said today that it will invest in the Accolade business, which has in Hardys the top Australian wine brand by volume in the UK, Australia's biggest wine export market by volume. “We see Accolade Wines as a company with strong fundamentals, a sound competitive position, a capacity to grow and an opportunity to re-invigorate its brands,” said CHAMP'S managing director, John Haddock.

"I think everyone knows there are a number of challenges facing the wine industry but it’s an important industry and we will be enthusiastic advocates for it,” he said.

just-drinks understands that CHAMP has retained Constellation's existing management team for Europe and Australia. Accolade CEO Troy Christensen said: “The management team is looking forward to working with the new owners who are bringing open mindedness, fresh energy and an expansive approach to the business."

Constellation Wines Australia and Europe reported a 78% drop in operating profits, to just US$2.5m, for the first nine months of the wine company's fiscal year, to the end of November 2010. BRL Hardy reported full-year net profits of AUD84m in 2003.