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Accolade Wines taken over by consortium

Published:  05 February, 2024

Accolade Wines, Australia’s second-largest producer, has been taken over by a consortium of investors led by Bain & Co, the US-based management consulting company.

Bain will be the largest stakeholder in Accolade after agreeing to buy the company’s debt and take control, with Accolade struggling to adapt to Chinese tariffs amid a consumer shift away from lower-priced brands.

Accolade, which owns brands such as Hardys Wines and Banrock Station, was bought by Carlyle in 2018 for A$1bn (US$660mn) but has amassed significant debt since then, including £301m due in June 2025 and a $150 million revolving credit facility maturing this year.

Since the Carlyle acquisition, the Bain consortium, known as Australian Wine Holdco, has been purchasing Accolade shares at a heavy discount, and, in August last year, Accolade sold its Tasmanian vineyard Bay of Fires, to further lower its debt.

Accolade chief executive Robert Foye said: “Like all Australian winemakers, we have been hit by a number of challenging macroeconomic and industry headwinds in recent years.

“Despite our strong stable of brands and leadership positions in key markets, as well as operational measures taken to strengthen the business, our ability to respond to these challenges and grow has been hampered.”

The impact of the Chinese tariffs on Australian exports have forced Australian wine companies like Accolade and Treasury Wine Estates to explore other markets such as America and Southeast Asia to offset lost sales in China. For instance, Accolade struck a deal with NBA basketball player James Harden to launch a Prosecco with wine brand J-Shed.

This, coupled with a change in Chinese consumer habits, which has seen spirits rise in popularity, has piled even more pressure on Accolade.

According to analysts, the restructured company will become a target for large trade buyers or private equity firms in a deal not dissimilar to the 2018 Carlyle acquisition.