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Jackson heights

Published:  23 July, 2008

There must be some Alan Sugar-type management byword that nice men (or women) don't make it to the top. At the risk of sounding like a Martyn Lewis acolyte (he was the BBC News presenter who complained that there were not enough nice' stories in the news), Peter Jackson, the new boss at FGL Wine Estates Europe, the merged business of Foster's Beringer Blass and the Southcorp portfolio, defies many people's belief that you have to be nasty and Machiavellian to succeed corporately.

Affable and approachable, the 43-year-old has risen to the top again, this time courtesy of John Philips' decision to stand down as chief of the newly formed company and have a career break. At their refurbished offices in Twickenham, on what turns out to be his first official day as MD, Jackson appears relaxed and comfortably in control.

He knows the business, having worked his way up at Southcorp from marketing director to sales director, Continental Europe. And then when Fosters put the ailing Aussie giant out of its misery by acquiring it, he was made commercial director, Continental Europe, charged with the responsibility of integrating the newly created FGL Wine Estate's sales, marketing and distribution within the region.

Jackson started at Bass in 1984, when it was the UK's largest brewer, as a trainee, having gained a business degree at North Staffordshire Polytechnic. His abiding memory is of working on the Stones Bitter brand and being in Kenya to shoot a TV ad. The script called for a rhino, a charging one at that. Jackson's boss had said something along the lines of Don't come back without it finished'. After three days, the inexperienced brand manager was sweating. Not a rhino in sight. Then word came through that a herd of elephants was approaching the water hole.

Time for an executive decision, and the young Jackson was up for it. Risking life and limb, he helped herd the elephants, including some increasingly aggitated bulls (probably lager drinkers), onto the set and into the Stones Bitter ad. A star was born.

Jackson then moved to Anheuser-Busch as Budweiser brand manager at a time when, ironically, nearly every young beer drinker was downing Aussie tinnies emblazoned with names such as Foster's and Castlemaine XXXX. The Americans thought that because they were the biggest brewer in the world (because of the huge domestic market) they could just set up shop and every impressionable lager drinker would just switch to Bud. Wrong.

The light American beer was brewed under licence by Grand Metropolitan, the much-hated brewer of Watneys and the like. The Bud break' came when Grand Met (now Diageo, since its merger with Guinness) decided to exit brewing and the small A-B team decided to eschew the draught market and concentrate on the burgeoning demand for premium packaged beers. Jackson moved from vice president of sales and marketing to UK managing director in 1998. During that period A-B bought the old Watney brewery in Mortlake, southwest London, and Budweiser became the UK's number one premium bottled lager.

After 11 years, the big four oh was looming, and my next move was an international assignment to somewhere like China or Mexico. My then wife wasn't keen, so I went to an internet security company which was looking for venture capital,' says Jackson. I developed a business plan and touted it around, but discovered that the bubble had already burst. After not being paid for six months I decided I wanted to go back to what I knew, so I joined Southcorp. I had always been interested in wine as a consumer, and wine brands were in their early stages.'

The 6ft 4in Jackson took on the formidable task of selling Aussie wines to the continental Europeans, Africans and the Middle East. That put paid to his marriage. I travelled a lot - 42 countries, a massive geography. I visited most of them, but concentrated on six or seven.' The main markets for Southcorp were the UK, Sweden, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and Germany.

Switzerland is very strong from a value perspective,' he says. We held one of our Penfolds re-corking clinics in Zurich and Peter Gago (Penfolds' winemaker) said he couldn't believe the number of magnums of Grange that seemed to appear from nowhere.'

When it comes to his roll of honour, Jackson reels them off: six out of the top 10 best-selling Australian wines in Sweden and Norway; leading Australian wine company in Ireland; Iceland - Rosemount's highest per capita consumption in the world; Lindemans number one Aussie brand in Sweden and Norway and number two in the Netherlands.

All of the countries are at different stages of development,' he says, and some do not know that Australia sells wine. Russia is a good example of that. Our distributor uses an ex-KGB building and the fine wines are stored in a former nuclear bunker. Poland: there are 40 million people and they only drink 2.5 litres of wine per capita per annum. Pizza Hut is upmarket in Poland and we have Penfolds served. So there are great opportunities. The big European retailers - Carrefour, Metro, Tesco - are all moving into eastern Europe and we are working closely with Wine Australia (the generic body) to develop these markets.'

As for the UK, all Jackson will say is: It is very competitive, not just for wine. The retailers have done a great job and the consumer has never had it so good. They pioneered initiatives such as introducing the screwcap; and we are now starting to see some regionality with Australia.'

The company has been closely tracking the acceptance of screwcap closures and Jackson says acceptance levels are running at more than 70%. Like most people in the wine sector, Jackson would like to see more brand loyalty and consumers willing to pay at least 1 more for their wine. In house, he sees a big opportunity for the Beringer brand, which is huge in the US, and he sees a significant opportunity for New World sparkling wines between Champagne at the premium end and cava at the bottom. A complete relaunch of the Rosemount brand, which was badly damaged by the persistent deep discounting during the ill-fated Keith Lambert period and marked the beginning of the end of Southcorp, is earmarked for the end of the year. Lindemans is also up for a refresh.

We learnt a lot from that experience,' says Jackson ruefully about Rosemount, but Penfolds continues to do very well and is an icon of Australia - the '01 Grange was recently released and sold out in weeks. Wolf Blass is a great brand and growing. It's the official wine of The Ashes and of English rugby,' says Jackson with a twinkle in his eye. You can see the Twickenham stadium, home of English rugby, from the FGL office, and Jackson has just bought an apartment close to the Harlequins' ground.

When the England cricket team defends The Ashes in Australia later this year and the Rugby World Cup takes place in France in the autumn of next year, it's not hard to guess where you might find Peter Jackson.


Peter Jackson's CV

Peter Jackson started as a graduate trainee with Bass in 1984. He held a number of positions, including market analyst, regional brand development manager and national brand manager.

In 1989, Jackson joined Anheuser-Busch Europe as the first Budweiser brand manager for Europe. His goal was to transform Budweiser from a niche imported American lager into the UK's number one premium lager brand. After two years as brand manager he was promoted to marketing manager for Europe and then, in 1994, to marketing director.

Anheuser-Busch appointed Jackson vice president of sales and marketing in 1996. Two years later he was promoted to managing director for the UK. During this period the company purchased a UK brewery from Scottish Courage and the challenge of transforming Budweiser into the UK's number one premium lager was accomplished.

In July 2000, Jackson was tempted by the internet revolution and took up the role of heading up an internet security company. A year later he returned to the drinks industry and joined Southcorp Wines Europe as marketing director. Within six months he was promoted to sales director, Continental Europe. Under his guidance the European business grew by 56%.

When Southcorp was acquired by Foster's in 2005, Jackson was appointed commercial director, Continental Europe, charged with the responsibility of integrating the newly created FGL Wine Estate's sales, marketing and distribution within the diverse region. In May 2006, he was appointed managing director, FGL Wine Estates Europe.



FGL Wine Estates is the United Kingdom and European sales and marketing division of Foster's Wine Estates (FWE). FWE was formed in 2005, when Foster's acquired Southcorp Wines and combined it with existing subsidiary Beringer Blass Wine Estates. FWE has an unrivalled portfolio of premium wine brands, including Beringer, Lindemans, Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount, Matua Valley, Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Castello di Gabbiano. FWE controls more than 15,000 hectares of vineyards in the premium wine-growing regions of Australia, California, New Zealand, Italy and France, and operates more than 20 wineries across the world.