André Lurton, a well-known figure in Bordeaux and owner of Château Bonnet and several other estates, has announced the sale of a stake in his eponymously named wine group to French bank Crédit Agricole for an undisclosed sum. Lurton and his seven children remain the majority shareholders—Crédit Agricole's stake is reportedly 18 percent.
Lurton, 87, owns five Bordeaux châteaus (Bonnet, La Louvière, Couhins-Lurton, de Rochemorin and de Cruzeau) and is a partner in two other estates, Dauzac and de Barbe Blanche. The wine group realizes more than $20 million in annual sales.
In the agreement signed with Crédit Agricole, which is valid for 10 years, a Lurton will remain at least figuratively as the head of the company. After 10 years, future leadership is open to renegotiation. The current general manager, Pascal Le Faucheur, will continue to run daily operations.
“Our partners are all pleased with the news. This means our business remains stable for at least another 10 years,” said Le Faucheur. He entered the Lurton business in 2008, after 25 years working for Crédit Agricole.
Lurton has long worked with Crédit Agricole in his acquisition of châteaus. Four of his children work in the wine business, but there is no clear successor since none of his children work with him. The closest business relationship is with his daughter Christine, who runs Dauzac.
Le Faucheur stressed that the infusion of cash would allow the corporation to expand as well as buy shares from family members should they wish to sell, without taking on debt or breaking up the company.
Crédit Agricole is something of a full-service shop—not only is it a bank, but it's also the largest owner of wine estates in France, with shares in many properties. It owns outright four estates in Bordeaux: Grand-Puy Ducasse in Pauillac, Rayne-Vigneau in Sauternes, Meyney in St.-Estèphe and Blaignan in the Médoc. The bank also has a real-estate agency that specializes in selling wine estates.
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