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Wine and drinks investors behind Thierry's new company Watermill Wines

Published:  01 November, 2012

Thierry's new owners have vowed to make the business viable long term after severe cash flow problems brought the company close to collapse.

Thierry's, which will now be known as Watermill Wines, has been acquired by KKVMS, corporate recovery specialists, and backed by private investors, all of whom are drawn from the wine and drinks industry, Harpers can reveal.

Richard Baizley, a proprietor of KKVMS and new chairman of Watermill Wines told Harpers:  "Thierry's was hit by the double whammy of refusing to play ball with one of its larger customers which was demanding something unreasonable. Due to that their banks called in their facility from £3.5 million to £1 million, which caused cash problems."

KKVMS was called in at the end of August to see if the company was "rescuable". KKVMS provides financial support and management teams to companies in financial difficulty. Its staff include legal experts - Baizley is a lawyer - as well as accountants and business process experts. It also provides access to equity and debt finance, through a network of private investors and industry contacts.

"It was clear to us that this was a very good business that had a few issues and contracts that in hindsight weren't great. But the underlying business is fantastic," said Baizley. Coupled with "goodwill and determination to make it work", KKVMS decided to take it on.

Baizley managed to recruit a number of private investors, "a group of individuals who know the industry very well - not all of them necessarily in wine but who know the alcohol beverage section," to back the ailing firm.

It also became clear, through discussions with key customers and producers, that there was little appetite for the company to fall into administration and emerge under new auspices afterwards.

Baizley is putting in a strong management team over the next few months, and has kept on the senior management team of  Dominique Vrigneau, Lindsay Talas and Hatim Dungarwalla. Around 20 of the Thierry's team - all of those who were still employed by the company at the time of transfer - are now employees of Watermill Wines.

In a statement released yesterday Baizley said: "What attracted us to Thierry's business in the first place was its reputation for quality and service.  Dominique and Lindsay in particular are held in extremely high esteem in the industry.  In the current challenging economic climate it's vital to take a long term strategic view to maintain sustainability.  This deal and new investment enables us to do just that. The business has some great customers, producers and suppliers that share our values of authenticity and quality and we look forward to continuing the partnerships with them."

Baizeley and his staff have so far spoken to most of Thierry's main producers and all of the key customer base who were "kept pretty much abreast of what was going on from day one". He is confident that most of Thierry's core business will continue, but admitted: "I can't claim that 100% of them will want to deal with us."

He told Harpers that he is committed to the business for the long-term. "Our investors know this will be an interesting six to 12 months, but we're here for the long term and we're going to make this work. We have some very interesting ideas."