July 31, 2021

Petrus’s masterstroke

The affair had long remained secret. But, last September, the veil of silence is torn and the small world of wine discovers that Petrus has ceded part of its capital. The amount of the transaction, in question, more than 200 million euros for 20% of the shares, go and tape more than one to the ceiling of his cellar. As for the identity of the purchaser, we make a big deal out of it. He is said to be a “Colombian billionaire”. All the ingredients are there for a beautiful salad of fantasies that largely feeds the discussions in Bordeaux.

What is it really ? The mysterious buyer who stirs the imagination of Bordeaux is actually called Alejandro Santo Domingo. This 41-year-old Colombian American comes from a family of entrepreneurs who made their fortune in beer. He is himself one of the architects of the agreement which led to the recent merger of the two giants of the sector Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller, a transaction worth 112 billion euros. The New Yorker, a former Harvard student with a degree in art and science, also heads Quadrant Capital Advisors, an investment firm based on Park Avenue in Manhattan. He can still be found on the executive committee of Florida Crystals, a conglomerate of sugar cane refineries, and on the executive committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $ 3.4 billion.

Anticipate transmission

This Francophile loves wine and has a superb cellar that he owns from his father. Six years ago, on the occasion of a trip to France with his future wife Lady Charlotte Wellesley – descendant of the Duke of Wellington – and his right-hand man, a former investment banker, he went to Petrus . He doesn’t really arrive by chance. Jean-Francois Moueix, president of the family holding company Videlot (Petrus, the Duclot trading company) and Julio Mario Santo Domingo, father of Alejandro Santo Domingo, had met in Paris several years previously. This visit to Pomerol will be followed by a whole series of meetings between Jean Moueix – son of Jean-François Moueix and general manager of Videlot – and Alejandro Santo Domingo. The American will eventually show his desire to become the owner of a domain in France. For four years, Jean Moueix and Alejandro Santo Domingo will successively review a dozen sales files without anything concrete succeeding. On the other hand, the human relationship is built, refined. One day, Alejandro Santo Domingo lets the Moueix know that he intends to invest directly in Petrus.

For Moueix, the offer has a number of advantages. The liquidity it generates offers prospects for investment and diversification. Tempting, for a family whose land holdings are concentrated in a single estate. Apart from Petrus, Videlot only has minority stakes in Château Calon Ségur (5%) and Château Montrose (2%), two flagships of Saint-Estèphe. The amount released also makes it possible to anticipate potential transmission problems. In this type of property, it often happens that the wish of one of the co-owners or heir to sell his shares is the trigger for a sale of the whole business, because the other co-owners are not able to buy back. outgoing shares. In the present case, the fruit of the transfer of the 20% would make it possible to alleviate this eventuality, constituting an insurance on the future for the children – Jean Moueix, his sister and his half-sister – and grandchildren of Jean-François Moueix .

The sale of 20%, signed in the last quarter of 2016, does not present any risk for the Moueix: Alejandro Santo Domingo remains largely in the minority. In addition, he puts his expertise as a businessman and his network at the disposal of the Pomerol family. A network, particularly linked to the beer sector, from which the Moueix could possibly benefit one day. The amount of the transaction, 240 million euros for 20% of the shares, confirmed by sources very familiar with the matter, makes Petrus a property valued at 1.2 billion euros. Knowing that the estate has 11.4 hectares, this brings the hectare to around 105 million euros. A record little appreciated by some neighbors who do not see such an inflation of local tariffs favorably, with its possible tax consequences. But in Bordeaux, no one dares to publicly criticize the Moueix.

Is Petrus overvalued? On the contrary, will its value soar over the next few years? Impossible to predict. On the other hand, it seems obvious that Alejandro Santo Domingo did not only acquire land, he also bought, in addition to stocks, one of the most beautiful brands of wine in the world, the fifth of a singular estate to more of a title.

Since its creation, Petrus has been a textbook case for students in business strategy. Connoisseurs of the vineyard readily recall that at the end of the Second World War the property did not exist, lost in the shadow of premier crus such as Lafite Rothschild, Haut Brion, Yquem, Latour, Ausone or Cheval Blanc. Jean-Pierre Moueix, an entrepreneur from Correze, initially contented himself with distributing the wine from this estate which belonged to Edmonde Loubat, a hotelier from Libourne, who died in 1961. The latter had managed, we do not know how, to do so. served at the wedding lunch of Princess Elizabeth – future Queen of England – and Philip Mountbatten, in 1947. Jean-Pierre Moueix succeeded in getting it appreciated by President Kennedy, who made it his favorite wine . The beginning of glory. If the bottle takes pride of place on the aft deck of the speedboats of the American golden youth of the 1960s, the Moueix do not forget the main thing: the grape. They entrust the vinification to Jean-Claude Berrouet, who skillfully sublimates the production of Merlot and its exceptional terroir. Result: a velvety wine that rolls on the palate, with superb length, quite irresistible, described as “great wine” in most vintages. The criticism is rave.

The holy grail of collectors.

Today, Petrus can boast of a reputation superior to the historic Bordeaux châteaux whose production is much higher. With 30,000 bottles per year, that is to say from five to ten times less than the first on the left bank, Petrus is everywhere. “The production / notoriety ratio is formidable”, recognizes Jean Moueix. And to continue: “In 2013, my father and I took over the distribution of Petrus, until then managed by the company of my uncle Christian Moueix. But, instead of entrusting it to Duclot, our trading company, we We preferred to create Clés Distribution, a dedicated distribution company that sells wine with an allocation system. France is by far our biggest market. We are targeting large restaurants, iconic wine merchants, individuals. Of course, we are present in the United States, in Germany, in Japan, in the United Kingdom… We could have rushed to China, but, on the contrary, we are using our brakes to avoid a surge in prices. We cannot force our customers to drink our bottles, but we are doing everything we can to avoid speculation. “

The 2017 Petrus vintage was sold en primeur at 980 euros excluding tax to individuals. At a time when great vintages are considered luxury products, in auctions, Petrus is breaking records. In June, an imperial (6 liters) of Petrus 1989 was sold for 38,400 euros in auctions conducted by Artcurial. This wine, which goes so well with roast chicken and potatoes, has become the holy grail of collectors.

In Bordeaux, everyone must recognize that the Moueix family is thirty years ahead of many other owners. She collects the traits of genius in business with the same nose as she spots works of art. The minds less heated by the last episode conclude that the sale of part of the shares is undoubtedly a new masterstroke, the value of which only time will tell.