Robert Parker has sold a stake in The Wine Advocate

Robert Parker has sold a “substantial” interest in the Wine Advocate. He is stepping down as editor and the newsletter will now be run out of Singapore. The new owners plan “wine education conferences” around the world and will accept non-wine advertising.

This seems like quite a volte face since, as Felix Salmon notes, Parker just told the WSJ last month that he has refused all offers over the years in part because he “would not relinquish” editorial control of his newsletter. Now the WSJ ran a story by Lettie Teague on the sale to an group of three unnamed, “young visionaries” in Singapore. The story reports that Lisa Perrotti-Brown, currently the Australian wine critic, becomes editor-in-chief and that they will cease the print edition, shifting to exclusively online. (Parker also posted details on his own web site in an announcement.) The WSJ story presents no history of the subscriber arc at the Wine Advocate but claims it currently has 50,000 subscribers (Since this is a news story in the Media & Marketing section, can one assume that this figure was verified in some way other than Parker’s word?).

Perrotti-Brown, long the least-known member of the staff, seems to have a swagger in her step as she commented to the WSJ that she and Parker “hope” the current contributing critics stay with the publication. But, if not, “There is a plethora of good wine writers out there. It’s a buyer’s market,” she said. On the thread on eBob, Neal Martin, who was rushing out to a tasting, posted that he is “very excited” about the changes.

The authority of the Wine Advocate has long rested on Parker’s perceived tasting prowess and his probity. With the titular shift of editorial to Singapore, Parker’s tasting ability becomes less relevant. Parker, 65, has said since the beginning that he was steeped in the post-Watergate awareness of conflict of interests. He has held up Ralph Nader’s consumer advocacy has a guiding light and touted his independence from the industry, often using that as a cudgel against other wine writers or publications he deemed too close to the wine trade. However, in recent years, his contributors have not maintained the arm’s length from the trade, whether that is in the form of “masterclasses” involving Jay Miller or the Festa del Barolo or Solaia events of Antonio Galloni. So it is particularly interesting to see that the “wine education conferences” feature prominently in the new Wine Advocate yet at the same time, Perrotti-Brown seems to be showing Galloni, considered Parker’s heir, the door.

Will the new editorial group rewrite the vaunted ethics statement to stop what many have seen in recent years as untenable and/or hypocritical? Will they continue to publish an estimate of how many wines they purchase and perpetuate the notion that their critics taste blind “whenever possible”? Will their contributors openly accept trips from national or regional promotional groups? Will the “education conferences” purchase their own wines at retail or follow the Festa model and source directly from wineries whose wines they then review in print? Given Perrotti-Brown’s hardline comment about the tenure of existing contributors, is she cleaning house to start anew, a strategy that itself has risks? The Wine Advocate has hit a fork in the road. Where it goes in 2013 and beyond remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Robert Parker has just launched a barrage of Tweets regarding the transaction and contradicts a number of things in the WSJ story. Namely, he denies the print edition will cease, says that the headquarters will remain in Monkton, MD and there will be a “second office” in Singapore, and says that Perrotti-Brown will be doing “day to day editing” while he will set the “big picture.”

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27 Responses to “Robert Parker has sold a stake in The Wine Advocate”

  1. Big fan of Galloni. His palate and mine are aligned nicely, and i like his wine reviews. Not a fan of the WA in general. My allegiance will remain with Galloni, wherever he lands. Forza Italia!

  2. Ding dong the witch is dead…finally.

    Whatever positive influence Mr. Parker may have had early on has long been washed away in a veritable ocean of malignant effects on the wine industry. From the one-dimensional palate that not only failed to appreciate any nuance or balance in a wine but also considered such wines to note merely be of a different taste but fundamentally flawed and the product of a dishonest producer out to rip off the consumer to the goal of creating a monolithic world of wine in which any regional difference was washed away under a sea of oak and alcohol to the cult of personality of the (favored) winemakers displacing the actual vineyards themselves in the hierarchy of winemaking importance, I feel that the industry will look back at Robert Parker as a twenty year journey down a rabbit hole.

    And let’s not forget the man himself: thin-skinned, petty, bullying and sublimely arrogant.

    Good riddance!

  3. Parker just sent out several tweets about the changes. They contradict some aspects of the WSJ story. I posted a screenshot above. I asked him on Twitter what percentage of the company he now owns. He has not replied.

  4. Breaking news: Robert Parler Jr confirms some informations about the WA.

  5. Well, WA classes all over Asia, the brand will be diluted very quickly.

    Also Mr. Parker is/was a lawyer, this may all be about tax planning, next he will decamp for Singapore, or his money will 😉

  6. Wow, Lenny. Tell us how you really feel. 🙂

    And good luck, Dr. Vino, on getting a reply to your question!

  7. Antonio Galloni tweeted about the developments:

    “It’s business as usual. I am 100% committed to providing readers with the best commentary and service possible for the regions I cover.

    “My tasting and traveling schedule remains unchanged. I have never be more energized about the future than I am right now….”

  8. With this move, RP moves one step closer to becoming the wine world’s Elvis, and all the other pubs/critics that use the 100pt scale suddenly look like just so many Elvis impersonators.

  9. I believed that not only significant structural changes were to take place at TWA following the move, but also the entire evolution of the F&B scene. Each transformation could help Singapore achieve her vision of becoming the region’s gourmet capital and a world-recognized destination for dining, nightlife and entertainment. It’s just like Gangnam Style in the wine world, with the newly appointed Singapore-based editor-in-chief, would boost “brand Singapore”.

    Recently, the two new integrated resorts are changing the tourism landscape with Michelin-starred restaurants, celebrity chefs and world-class clubs. Certainly, it would be my dream to make Singapore into a wine-hub that Asia cannot do without!
    George Wong, Wine MBA
    Oenologue & Consultant

  10. An the winner is?…

  11. And the price is?… (breaking news)

  12. […] Advocate and relinquished editorial control. Check out commentary from Eric Asimov, Jeff Leve, Tyler Colman, Talia Baiocchi, Tom Wark,  S. Irene Virbila, and Joe Roberts. Parker’s hometown paper, […]

  13. And where was “the man who bought Parker” 5 days ago?
    Breaking news…

  14. I guess it all amounts to sliding off toward retirement and shuffling off the burden of the publication in exchange for dough.
    The changes he has made over the last number of years were no doubt made to expand the brand and make it more financially lucrative. But at the same time it also made it more of a burden to manage and less fun for him. More CEO less wine writer, and who the hell would want to do that?

  15. Easier in english…
    Who Bought Parker and at What Price?

  16. […] Tyler Colman of Dr. Vino […]

  17. Vincent – Interesting coincidence. I notice the Facebook page you reference is no longer active:

    Did you attempt to contact Mr. Soo Hoo directly regarding the material you posted?

  18. Vincent – Hermitage Wines organized the “Ultimate Parker in Asia” tour in 2010. Here’s an account from Reuters, with quotes from the Hermitage principals:

  19. Yes, I sent him a message.

  20. For Hermitage, of course I know that: the poster was in my blog yesterday…
    And now, loook at this:

  21. Become the next Elvis??? Is that good, with hot chicks flocking, or is it bad, overweight, drugged, and not very alive?

    Funny how bent out of shape some posters get about how much and whether growing or slowing, the influecne of RP. Most consumers read very little of wine reviews. Circulation of the magazines and newsletters is quite small. Only a small % of wines get mentioned. The market is so fragmented. And finicky. 100 points might get you a few years of sales. 94 might get you 1 year. But weak marketing is always more deadly than a few good reviews over time.

    The producers are fragmented. Consumption in the US is still in infancy. Interesting that some wines or wineries are desperate for someone to review them. That means the business is fragmented to an extreme. The publications are not big enough to cover the vast majority of producers. A funny little tempest in a teapot. Only relevant if you can afford the cults and if you don’t have any friends or merchants to talk to. Trusting your $ to someone you basically never can talk to is an inferior way of spending your $.

  22. Mike over at the Wine Diarist has a good take:

  23. has run a story that Soo Hoo lead the group who bought a stake.

  24. […]; “Singapore sling” at WineDiarist; previous Permalink | Comments (0) | | wine writing This entry was posted on Saturday, December […]

  25. Whatever the outcome. Parker looks bad.. Like a double-talking, back-sliding, duplicitous reptile. Oh, right – he’s a lawyer.

  26. […] find anything exceptional to drink.” As of last week, she sold that company. Unlike another major transaction this month in the wine world, the buyers are identified and there’s a very professional press […]

  27. […] Singapore played a part in his decision. At that time, the new editor-in-chief, Lisa Perotti-Brown, left the door open to current staff departures, telling the WSJ, “There is a plethora of good wine writers out […]


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