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Wine Spectator: Casella To Acquire Peter Lehmann Wines, Seeking More Additions

November 13, 2014

Casella Family Brands, best known as the producer of Yellow Tail, is adding fellow Australian winery Peter Lehmann Wines (PLW) to its stable—and says it’s now seeking more acquisitions. In mid-November, the Hess Group—PLW’s majority owner—agreed to accept a $49.5 million offer for its 85.7% stake. Hess, based in Switzerland and known for its Hess Collection California wines, paid $103 million in 2003 for its share of the winery, which Peter Lehmann founded in 1979.

Margaret Lehmann, Peter’s widow, said she intends to sell Casella her 10.8% percent stake in PLW, reaching the threshold of 90% required in Casella’s filing with Australian authorities. Lehmann said she feels comfortable selling her shares to another family-owned company, “because the patient capital of private ownership is better-suited to the cyclical nature of the wine industry.”

Casella Wines Pty. Ltd. began as a bulk wine company in Griffiths, New South Wales, about 360 miles west of Sydney. It partnered with U.S. importer W.J. Deutsch & Sons (now Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits) to create the Yellow Tail brand in 2000, and the wine quickly grew to be the largest-selling import label in the U.S., up 1% to 8.6 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank.

Managing director John Casella told Wine Spectator that Yellow Tail’s parent company’s marketing and distribution reach provided “an opportunity to grow the Peter Lehmann wine portfolio and present the Barossa region on a global stage.” He also suggested that this first acquisition of an existing wine brand won’t be the last. Peter Lehmann Wines “plays an integral part in building a family of quality brands across a range of price segments,” said Casella. “We have a clearly defined strategy to extend our Casella brand portfolio to include a range of premium wines that highlight the enormous diversity of the Barossa and its subregions.”

The past two years haven’t been kind to PLW. Founder Peter Lehmann died in 2013 at age 82 and his son Doug Lehmann, who had assumed leadership of the company, died a year later of a heart attack at age 62. Despite those challenges, the winery doubled its profits in 2014 on significantly higher revenues. Wine Spectator has more.


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