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Yalumba CEO Robert Hill-Smith steps down after 30 years

Published:  04 February, 2015

Australia's oldest family winery Yalumba is to lose its chief executive of 30 years - Robert Hill-Smith - who is stepping down from the role to chair the board of directors.

Robert Hill-Smith is stepping down after 30 years as CEO at YalumbaRobert Hill-Smith is stepping down after 30 years as CEO at Yalumba

Hill-Smith, who was the one of the youngest chief executives at a major winemaker when first appointed in 1985, will be replaced by Nick Waterman on March 7.

Waterman, chief operating officer at the company's import/export arm Negociants since 2014, joined the family firm in 2002 from a career in software marketing and sales and became executive director of strategy and training in 2009.

Peter Barnes, current chairman of the board of directors, is retiring after holding the position for the past 12 years.

Hill-Smith said Barnes had been a tremendous mentor and had "guided us through some lumpy seas". Barnes held executive roles and directorships at Ansell, Metcash and News Corporation and Hill-Smith said he would be "sorely missed".

Hill-Smith will continue as chair of Australia's First Families of Wine and board member of the Winemakers' Federation of Australia.

Yalumba produces around 2 million cases of wine per year, with 60% of its production destined for the domestic market, and 40% going overseas. One of its major export brands is Oxford Landing. It also owns Jansz in Tasmania, Nautilus Estate in New Zealand, and Eden Valley's Pewsey Vale and Heggies. The firm was founded in the Barossa Valley in 1849.  

Celebrating the 165th anniversary of Yalumba in November last year, Hill-Smith vowed it would "remain independent, innovative and forward thinking".  At a time when many Australian wineries are struggling or on the market, Hill-Smith said "we continue to invest in new vineyards and plantings, winery improvements in bottling and logistics, leadership training and up-skilling".