FRANCE: Bernard Magrez eyeing wine acquisitions

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French wine magnate Bernard Magrez intends to buy a Bordeaux chateau producing grand cru classé wine within the next two years, with Château Latour one possible option.

Magrez, who owns a range of quality wine estates in France, as well as in Spain, South America and Morocco, told just-drinks yesterday (29 April) that he is eyeing a move for a high-end grand cru classé "in the next two years".

Commenting on speculation that he has shown interest in Château Latour, he said: "It is one option, but if not [Latour], then there will be others. This is not just because of the financial crisis, but also for family [ownership] reasons."

Market speculation earlier this year suggested that French billionaire businessman François Pinault, who is friends with Magrez, had put his 94% stake in Latour up for sale, after suffering in the financial market meltdown last autumn.

The 78-hectare Latour estate, which produces about 360,000 bottles of wine annually, was bought by Pinault in 1993 for EUR90m.

Pinault denied in January that Latour was for sale. Separately, however, a senior Bordeaux wine source told just-drinks earlier this month that Latour is believed to be on the market, for the right price. Analysts have suggested the business could sell for at least EUR200m.

Magrez, who attended a tasting of his wines in central London yesterday, declined to comment on how much he would be willing to spend to acquire a chateau producing high quality grand cru classé.

He already owns Château Pape Clément and Château La Tour Carnet, both of which are grand cru classé producers. 

In addition to Bordeaux, Magrez said that he is also interested in acquiring a business in Spain's Ribera del Duero wine region. "There are some wonderful places there," he said.

Negotiations with potential partners in the area are underway.

He ruled out following in the footsteps of Bordeaux wine giant Barons de Rothschild in China, where the firm recently said that it would produce a premium grand cru wine.

Magrez, who walked out on his business in China nearly ten years ago after the Government demanded a share of his profits, said that he does not have near-term plans to return to the country, apart from working with distributors to sell his wines there.

The wine billionaire remained philosophical on the global economic downturn. "Everyone always comes out of a crisis," he said, adding: "You don't manage a winery for two years, it's a 10-year business."

Yesterday's tasting in London provided a selection of Magrez wines from around the world, including a Japanese wine produced jointly by Magrez and Japanese wine expert Yuuji Aruga.

Sectors: Wine

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