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Edward Cavendish & Sons bought by Thierry's

Published:  23 July, 2008

Thierry's Wine Services - one of the UK's largest independent wine companies - has bought Edward Cavendish & Sons (ECS), the wholly-owned subsidiary of South African wine giant KWV. In return, KWV has taken a stake in Thierry's, with all details undisclosed.

Thierry's will now be the distributor for the KWV portfolio - which includes wines such as KWV Reserve, Roodeberg, Ruperts Rock and Cathedral Cellar - although the future of the other agencies in the ECS portfolio is less clear.

According to Peter Darbyshire, managing director of Thierry's: All the wines in the Cavendish portfolio will be looked at on an individual basis. If they fill a hole in our portfolio or we feel there is a real market demand for them we would be happy to take them on. There is nothing worse, however, than taking on an agency and then doing nothing with it.'

Darbyshire stresses that the deal is not a cost-cutting exercise, we are keen to build on the strengths that ECS has. They had sales of around half a million cases last year and we feel there is room to invest and build that upwards. KWV fills a gap in our portfolio, we lacked a really big brand from South Africa, and it complements our existing South African portfolio of smaller suppliers: Ken Forrester, Diemersfontein,

Danie de Wet and Excelsior.'

John Bestbier, managing director of KWV, added: The market is very competitive and everyone is looking to be more efficient. It appears the retailers are also looking to consolidate their supply bases and are bringing the number down to a dozen or less. You really need to have a very deep portfolio to compete effectively and Edward Cavendish, as a wholly-owned subsidiary, has always had an understandable emphasis on KWV's wines, which made up more than 90% of sales. It was always going to remain that way, to be honest, and to make sure we remained competitive as the industry moves forward a change was needed.'

Bestbier added that the stake it had taken in Thierry's was certainly significant but far from controlling'. There are to be some redundancies, although a large number of the Cavendish staff (based in Horley, Surrey) are expected to move to Romsey-based Thierry's. Edward Cavendish will be retained by Thierry's as a trading division of Thierry's.

Darbyshire said it made sense to keep the Edward Cavendish name, both for marketing and fiscal reasons'. The future of Gary Proctor, managing director of ECS, is unclear. Bestbier said: All the staff at Cavendish, including Gary, are in discussions with KWV and Thierry's to see where they would fit in the new trading division. We expect to retain a number of key staff.'

According to Darbyshire: We've been looking for acquisition targets for round 18 months but talks with KWV didn't really start on a formal basis until this year's LIWSF. From then on, things moved quite quickly. KWV realised that to be competitve in the UK you really need a critical mass to cover your overheads sufficiently. I think they realised they would have had to do some significant restructuring to put Edward Cavendish where it needed to be and it made more sense to speak to us.'