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New Thierry's owner moves to reassure wine suppliers

Published:  16 November, 2012

The new owner of Thierry's - now Watermill Wines - has moved to reassure suppliers he will do the best he can to pay their outstanding bills.

The firm was bought by corporate recovery specialists KKVMS, backed by a group of investors from the drinks trade, last month, after running into severe cashflow problems.

Richard Baizley, a director at KKVMS, told Harpers he was having discussions with all suppliers. "I know if I want to continue doing business with them I have to look after them." But he said many had not decided the best course of action and that he envisaged losing up to 30% of suppliers, as was his experience with other industries.

He said most of the conversations to date revolved around how much suppliers are owed, and how the money could be repaid. "But there has got to be commercial sense on both sides," he added. "There are certain producers I don't think we will ever get back their investment." But he said he was doing his best to make arrangements to repay monies owed over time, and would try to honour existing terms, but he warned in the worst cases, where "debt to throughput was massively out of kilter" it could take up to a few years.

Baizley pointed out that the new firm was under no legal obligation to honour commitments made by Thierry's.

As for the other key areas of the business: the future of wholesale arm Cavendish Wines is under review, while Lucy Warner, head of Thierry's South African division, has left, and a major producer there has pulled out. Former company director Lindsay Talas will now handle the buying for that region.

"The wine industry, like many others, is very nepotistic and small. What we do with one supplier will resonate through the market very quickly," Baizley said.

Speaking to Harpers last month, Baizley said Thierry's had been "hit by the double whammy of refusing to play ball with one of its larger customers which was demanding something unreasonable" and the bank cutting its facility from £3.5 million to £1 million.

For more on this story, including the future of Thierry's South African division and wholesale arm Cavendish Wines, read this week's issue of Harpers.