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Direct Wines says staff losses were necessary

Published:  28 July, 2008

Chief executive, Simon McMurtrie, says shake-up is to help make the business profitable

Direct Wines has defended the recent spate of staff departures from the company, saying it was part of a reorganisation of the company's portfolio.

Simon McMurtrie, Direct Wines chief executive officer, is reported to have "shaken up" the organisation since he joined earlier this year.

Harpers exclusively reported in July that the founder and chief executive of Virgin Wines, Rowan Gormley, had left the company "with immediate effect". McMurtrie has since confirmed he was made redundant.

Others to leave in the last few months include Laithwaites wine buyer, Vicki Stephens-Clarkson; Peter Greet, Laithwaites' head of wine buying; and Oliver Garland chief executive officer, Direct Wines. James Snoxell, Laithwaites wine buyer, will be leaving the company within the next few months.

"It was all part of the restructuring of the company," McMurtrie said. "Gormley was offered another role but decided it was unsuitable."

McMurtrie added that a lot of money had been invested in the three businesses in the last few years, but they needed a new direction to make them profitable. "The three of them have to be profitable," he said.

Dan Snook, formally managing director of Avery's in Bristol, has been promoted to be Laithwaites wine director and the restructuring of the three businesses will be overseen by Jay Wright - hence the redundancy of Gormley.

The wine company trades under the identities of Laithwaites, Virgin Wines, Averys, Warehouse, The Sunday Times Wine Club, Barclaycard Wine Service, and British Airways Wine Club. It has a turnover of more than £250 million, and over 500,000 regular customers.

McMurtrie confirmed there were no plans to sell or shut down the three companies within the next three years but further reorganisations were possible.

Direct Wines plans to focus more on Laithwaites and develop its international markets such as the US, Switzerland, Germany and Australia.