Monday, November 10, 2008

Reybier Backs Out of Montelena Deal

I blogged about the Chateau Montelena sale to Chateau Cos d’Estournel back in July saying that it was the biggest news in winedom at that time. Well, last week Chateau Montelena announced that the deal collapsed, making this by logic the other biggest news in winedom.

Wine blogs and wine forums immediately picked up the news. I tried to look for more info and Yahooed (I happen to use Yahoo not Google) the news, typing in “Cos”, “Montelena”, etc., and I was amazed at the dozens of search results all saying the same thing. Wrapping the history of Montelena—including, of course, its winning the “Judgment of Paris” tasting, the Barrett family story, blah, blah, blah—around the single press release from Montelena, which said: ‘Reybier Investments has been unable to meet its obligations under its contract with the Barrett family, who will retain ownership and not offer the winery for sale. The process that just ended did not result in the outcome we or Mr. Reybier desired.”

That’s it. There is no further news or explanation for this nixed deal. No statement from Jean-Guillaume Prats, Cos d’Estournel’s GM, or from Michel Reybier himself, the owner of Cos and the buyer. It’s not even clear if any news organization tried to reach them. I found myself asking the question, like a lot of people reading the news, I'm sure, why didn't the sale go through? And who is this shadowy-like figure, Michel Reybier?

Jean-Guillaume Prats has been the only French face in this deal. Many know him, of course, as the son of Bruno Prats, the long-time, former patriarch of Cos, who was forced to sell his family’s property due to French tax laws. An investment company purchased Cos from the Prats in 1998, then in 2001 sold it to Michel Reybier. Reybier was a processed-meat tycoon from Lyon, who created some of the most well-known deli meat brands in Europe. Reybier successfully sold his deli meat empire to the US company, Sara Lee, in 1996. His wealth is currently estimated at $650-800 million. Among his other interests are a luxury hotel group based in Geneva and Paris, an investment stake in an oil exploration company, and properties in the south of France.

Reybier is one of many French tycoons who own high-profile estates in Bordeaux. Others are Bernard Arnault, François Pinault, Albert Frere, Jean-Claude Beton, Gerard Perse, Cathiard family, Bich family, and Wertheimer family, just to name a few.

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