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Paragon rocked as second major director quits

Published:  23 July, 2008

Peter Williamson - known as "Slim" - is to follow Anthony Dee out of the door at London agent Paragon Vintners.

The Paragon sales director of 18 years is leaving the firm at the end of the month because, like Dee, he has doubts about its direction under major shareholder CL WorldBrands.

One insider told Harpers Magazine: "This is a big loss when coupled with the departure of Dee. Williamson is a skilled operator. The owners are losing two people they shouldn't, but the relationship has broken down irrevocably on both sides."

Differences of opinion appear to centre on the fact that CL WorldBrands wishes to take on more spirits brands for Paragon, while Williamson's and Dee's principal expertise is in the UK wine market.

Williamson and Dee are also said to have been unhappy that a number of recent acquisition opportunities had been vetoed by executives at CL WorldBrands.

CL World Brands has appointed Brian Woods and Andy Calder to replace Dee as joint managing directors in the short term.

A source close to Paragon admitted: "Staff will be feeling unsettled, and there could be possible departures of some agencies."

Dee and Williamson set up Paragon in 1990, merging the failed Hedges & Butler with London suppliers H Parrot & Co, then handling Veuve Clicquot in the UK. Mot Hennessy took back Veuve Clicquot in 2004, after Dee and Williamson had taken it from a brand selling 20,000 cases, to one topping 180,000.

At the time, the removal of this brand from Paragon, along with the departure of Baron Philippe de Rothschild to London agents Fells, created a large hole in the company, one that in recent years Dee and Williamson had been seeking to fill.

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