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Interview: Jean-Marie Laborde, CEO, Rémy Cointreau

May 8, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: When Jean-Marie Laborde took the helm at Rémy Cointreau in 2004, the company looked much different than it does today. Its holdings were far more diverse back then, but it had less control over its core business as its global distribution was in the hands of Maxxium, a four-way joint venture overseeing a vast array of products. Laborde has since streamlined Rémy’s operations and pulled out of Maxxium to achieve greater control over its brand portfolio. The financial community has applauded Laborde’s strategy, as Rémy’s market cap has increased from less than $1 billion when he arrived to well more than $4 billion today. And the company is still moving full speed ahead. Last July, it acquired single malt Scotch Bruichladdich—a brand Laborde believes will be integral to the company’s long-term growth. Rémy aims to double sales and profits over the next five years. Laborde sat down recently with SHANKEN NEWS DAILY to discuss the company’s current strategic goals.

SND: Rémy Cointreau has dramatically reshaped its portfolio during your time as CEO. What drove that change?

Laborde: We’re a medium-sized company that’s still family-controlled, but when I arrived we were operating like a large company. I didn’t think that was sustainable. We needed to find a model that best allowed us to compete against larger players, because I firmly believe that if you’ve got the right model, size doesn’t matter. We knew we had to be strong in the Americas, Asia and Europe, and we didn’t think we needed a large number of brands to accomplish that. So we streamlined the portfolio, because we only want to own and market brands that are truly international and that carry high-end cachet.

SND: China’s Cognac market has cooled a bit lately, as the government has clamped down on gift-giving and banquets. How big a concern is this?

Laborde: China clearly is an important market for us, but we’ve aimed at not being dependent on any one region or market. Because we don’t have as large a portfolio as some of our competitors, being well-balanced geographically is a key part of our strategy. It’s how we minimize risk. Asia, the U.S. and Europe each account for roughly one-third of our business.

SND: How are things going in the U.S.?

Laborde: We’ve reorganized our team over the past few years, and it’s probably stronger now than at any time in the past few decades. We’re confident about our distribution footprint, and we’re now stepping up investment behind our portfolio to more effectively get our message out to consumers. While I wouldn’t say we’re totally free of the economy’s momentum, I do believe that, the more premium your portfolio, the less concern you have. So I think we’re less vulnerable to macroeconomic trends than some of our competitors.

SND: What does the Bruichladdich addition do for Rémy?

Laborde: It’s a long-term play. We weren’t necessarily looking to increase the size of the portfolio, but we came across this unique proposition that we couldn’t pass up. Bruichladdich presents a fantastic opportunity in single malt Scotch. It’s has a well-deserved reputation for craftsmanship, and, even in single malt, its premium price-positioning stands out. It’s also very complementary to our portfolio and fits our core strengths. We don’t expect significant revenue from Bruichladdich over the next five years, but we expect it to have a major impact beyond that.

SND: Do you foresee more acquisitions?

Laborde: Our existing portfolio is well-positioned for growth, but I’ve also got to plan for the future as we aim to meet our goal of doubling profits within the next five years. So we’re definitely considering acquisitions. But we’ll only look to make moves that fit in with our strategy and our portfolio.

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