Decanter reports that the lead buyer of a stake in the Wine Advocate still has close ties to the company he founded that does wine retail, importing and investing: his wife owns a large share and is the managing director.
Soo Hoo Khoon Peng reportedly led a group of investors to buy an undisclosed stake in the Wine Advocate, announced earlier this month. Ten years ago, Soo Hoo founded Hermitage Wines in Singapore. Aside from wine retail, Hermitage offers the pre-sale of many wines and offers wine investment services. Their website points to static production of the top wines of Europe while underscoring strong demand, especially in Asia. Their web site states “This creates an unparalleled investment opportunity!” It also touts their “strong connections to top vineyards worldwide.”
According to Decanter, calls to Hermitage say that Soo Hoo left the company. (In response to a query as to his role in the transaction, I, too, got a reply four days later saying that he had left the company. No reply was forthcoming when I forwarded the email query to the suggested forwarding address.) Yet the article, written by Ch’ng Poh Tiong and Adam Lechmere, says that an examination of the share structure on December 17 shows that Soo Hoo and his wife Josephine Ng own 73% of the shares of Hermitage.
Ms. Ng posted a response to the article on her Facebook page in which she did not deny the details. It read “To Decanter, Chng Poh Tiong and all the bloggers out there — thank you for all the publicity that Hermitage can get. Get a life!” Her Facebook profile is no longer visible but a screenshot of the comment appears below. Her husband deleted his Facebook page, which had frequent updates, since news of the sale surfaced.
After a link to the Decanter story appeared in the discussion forum at eRobertParker.com, Parker posted a reply, which read in part
I have not taken on any investor with ANY interest in the wine business.To have done so would be stupid,and create a major conflict of interest.Moreover, the investors recognize the significance of TWA’s independence and hard-earned credibility,and along with me, are fully committed to this.One of the investors was required…in order to invest in TWA, to sell their interest in a wine company,as this was an abolute prerequisite to participation), and that was done….if any of the wives of these investors have an interest, I am 100% certain it has been sold or is in the process of being sold
In this comment, Parker confirm a buyer had a connection to wine retail and, in so doing, all but confirms that Soo Hoo was the lead investor as has been reported. What still remains unclear is the size of the stake that Parker sold, particularly whether it was a controlling stake. Since it seems Decanter has no trouble digging up the share structures of companies in Singapore, it is presumably only a matter of time before this comes out.