Accolade Wines CEO John Ratcliffe started work last month

Accolade Wines' CEO John Ratcliffe started work last month

The head of Accolade Wines' UK unit has said finding a CEO for a wine company is a “challenge” because candidates must possess the right mix of skills.

Paul Schaafsma, whose company brought in John Ratcliffe last month after a year long hunt for a new head, said a wine CEO must be a good businessman, but also needs to “get wine”. Schaafsma's comments come just a few days before Treasury Wine Estates welcomes Michael Clarke as its new CEO following the departure of David Dearie in September.

Clarke's appointment has been attacked by some analysts because he has not worked for an alcohol or agriculture-based company before.

“It's not an easy position to fill,” Schaafsma said of a wine CEO's job. “You look at some of the larger organisations and the types of people they are trying to bring into these roles. Sometimes, you can be criticised for looking at someone with an FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) background who doesn't have wine experience, or if you go down the wine route, if they've got the right credentials in terms of business acumen and being relevant on a global scale.”

Schaafsma praised Accolade's new CEO, saying the appointment of Ratcliffe, who has been a consultant to Accolade owner CHAMP since it bought the wine firm from Constellation Brands in 2011, was “a great result”.

Asked why it took a year to find a replacement for former incumbent, Troy Christensen, Schaafsma said: “(The board) wanted to get it right. As they went through the search, they recognised that the man they wanted was already consulting to the business.”

Schaafsma, who was talking to just-drinks at Prowein 2014 in Duesseldorf yesterday (24 March), also hailed last week's UK Budget, which scrapped the duty escalator on wines and spirits. But, he argued that an industry campaign to freeze the duty on wine, as was announced for wine and beer, must continue.

“It's a shame that wine was treated differently to spirits and beer,” he said. “Unfortunately there's not a lot of wineries in the UK of a significant size.”