Vintage Wine Estates adds AGR exec as COO

Jeff Nicholson’s previous experience is focused on logistics in the pet supply industry.

Vintage Wine Estates, a privately-held wine company headquartered in Santa Rosa, California and backed by TIAA-affiliate AGR Partners, has hired former AGR operating director Jeff Nicholson as its chief operating officer.

The newly-created position will see Nicholson based in Davis, California and overseeing VWE’s winemaking, production, warehousing, supply chain, purchasing and information technology operations.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Nicholson joined AGR as an operating partner in June 2017, a position described as focused on identifying and developing new business opportunities. Previously, according to the profile, Nicholson served as co-founder, president and board member of Animal Supply Logistics, a company that supplied independent pet supply retailers that was subsequently merged with Animal Supply Company.

Earlier in his career, Nicolson held sales position with Ralston Purina and Hayward, California headquartered Pacific Cartage and Warehousing and also co-founded Link Logistics System in Davis, California.

“We are growing rapidly and welcome his expertise in mergers and acquisitions, extensive value chain experience and entrepreneurial spirit,” said VWE chief executive Pat Roney.

In April, AGR was part of a group of investors that made a $75 million investment into VWE, which produces close to two million cases of wine annually. The company’s wine is sold through wholesale, direct to consumer and other channels under more than 30 brands that include high end and more affordable options.

At the time, Roney also told Agri Investor that VWE hoped to benefit from AGR’s  strategic relationships with vineyard investors, highlighting that TIAA affiliate Westchester’s 25,000 acre portfolio made it the fifth largest owner in the US.

“We currently buy from some of them and would expect to have greater access to those grapes,” said Roney.

In a quarterly industry outlook published last year, Rabobank noted a growing number of deals among wine distributors, adding that US and German investors had been particularly active. The report said that desire to add new product lines or achieve economies of scale were the major drivers of activity, highlighting Carlyle’s June purchase of Accolade Wines, Australia’s largest wine producer by volume, and the firm’s subsequent investment in as well as the acquisition of a controlling stake in Spanish winery Codorniu.

“Given the characteristics of the wine industry (fragmentation, family/private ownership, scope for synergies and efficiencies through consolidation), more will follow,” wrote global strategist for beverages Stephen Rannekleiv.