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Judgement of Nyetimber finds against leading English fizz producer

Published:  22 February, 2017

Nyetimber's former head of sales, James Mason, wins his legal case against the English sparkling wine producer

Nyetimber's former head of sales, James Mason, has won his legal case against the English sparkling wine producer, after a judge ruled that Nyetimber had breached Mason's employment contract when it sacked him on alleged grounds of gross misconduct and negligence in July 2016.

In his conclusion on the employment tribunal ruling, Judge Baty said: "As the respondent [Nyetimber] did not have grounds to dismiss the claimant [James Mason] summarily, the claimant's breach of contract complaint, succeeds."

Judge Baty of the employment tribunal in London, dismissed an accusation by Nyetimber's owner Eric Heerema, that Mr Mason was "lazy, incompetent and lying," in his handling over a major order from Denmark and ordered Nyetimber to pay Mason three months notice pay plus a 25% ACAS uplift totalling £24,233,44.

Harpers can reveal that Nyetimber has now hired Bell Pottinger to handle the PR from the fall out of the case, which has attracted attention from the national UK press. Meanwhile, Mason has revealed to Harpers that he rejected two offers from Nyetimber to settle the case prior to the court hearing.

The final sum offered on the eve of the hearing of the case, was higher than the sum Mason gained in the court ruling, Mason told Harpers.

Mason, who now works for The Cotswolds Distillery, was employed as head of sales at Nyetimber, the award-winning English fizz producer, for 18 months until he was fired on grounds of 'gross misconduct' in July 2016.

Speaking exclusively to Harpers following the judgment, Mason said: "I am over the moon: this was never about the money this was a moral principle."

"My name has been cleared on three accounts: I was wrongly accused of being lazy, incompetent and lying, the judge ruled that I was wrongly dismissed on alleged grounds of gross misconduct and negligence," he said.

"If I had not stood up to Mr Heerema, he could have continued to ruin drink industry careers: during my 18 month employment period at Nyetimber, 30 people either left or were fired by Mr Heerema."

However, speaking to Harpers on behalf of Nyetimber, John Henderson, CEO of Bell Pottinger said: "Nyetimber is disappointed, but respects the findings of the tribunal."

Henderson told Harpers, that Nyetimber would not lodge an appeal against the ruling.

Henderson said: "The tribunal acknowledged that Mr Hereema had genuine grounds for acting the way he did, but it did not believe [the sacking of Mr Mason] equated to gross misconduct."

But Mason said: "This about how Mr Heerema has treated members of staff with such contempt over the years. I am merely the catalyst for bringing it all to light, as I refused to be bullied, settle, and instead called his bluff by taking him to tribunal."

Mason said he had received countless emails and messages of support from former Nyetimber employees in his case against Nyetimber.

Judge Baty sent his judgement to parties of the case on Wednesday 21 February.