Sir George Fistonich’s parent company of Villa Maria in receivership

The parent company of New Zealand wine business Villa Maria Estate has been placed into receivership.

Brendon Gibson and Neale Jackson of Calibre Partners confirmed today that they had been appointed as receivers to FFWL Limited.

FFWL is 100 per cent owned by Sir George Fistonich, the founder of Villa Maria.

Gibson stressed that the receivership of the parent company would not have an impact on the winery or any of its international subsidiaries.

“This action does not affect Villa Maria, which is trading profitably and continues to trade as normal,” Gibson said.

“Villa Maria has been working through a well-publicised process to identify the best options to raise capital.

“Both a new investment or a sale of shares in Villa Maria were on the table. It is now clear that a sale of the shares in the business will occur. We will assess the position and then focus on completing a sale of the shares.”

The Herald earlier reported that trade and private equity buyers had been approached to buy or invest in the business.

The comments from Gibson today suggest the likely course of action will involve a sale of the winery to a new owner.

Gibson said a further announcement would be made once they “have further clarity” on what might happen next.

The AFR earlier reported that the Villa Maria Estate wine business could be worth more than A$200 million ($213m), although binding bids were still a while away.

Villa Maria brands include Villa Maria, Esk Valley, Leftfield, Vidal and Thornbury. It was recently awarded 39 gold medals across the group portfolio at the New Zealand International Wine Show.

Early speculation suggested that trade buyers could include rival wine company NZX-listed Delegat and privately owned Indevin New Zealand which has wineries in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. (Delegat has since poured cold water on the rumours).

Some Australian private equity players are also said to have taken part in the process.

Villa Maria Estate is largely owned by Fistonich, who founded the company in 1961.

He stepped down as CEO in March 2018.

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