A legal fight over who controls Portugal's largest wine company has come to an end. After six years of litigation, José Berardo is selling his 32 percent stake in Sogrape to the majority shareholders—the Guedes family—and their partners. The sale will end Berardo's attempt to take over Sogrape, a firm with 3,800 acres of vineyards and brands including Sandeman and Mateus, with 2011 sales of $236 million.
Three separate families founded Sogrape in 1942—the Guedes family, the Carmo family and the Correia da Silva family. Since the 1980s, the Guedes clan has controlled it. When the Carmos wanted to exit, they sold their third to Berardo after negotiations with other shareholders failed. Berardo is the ninth-richest man in Portugal, worth $786 million, according to 2012 media reports.
He is also a wine lover. Born in Madeira, Berardo's father was a master blender for a Madeira house. Berardo's first job, at age 13, was to glue labels on Madeira bottles. After building a fortune in other arenas, in 1993, he bought control of the wine company JP Vinhos, now named Quinta da Bacalhôa, which includes Aliança and Quinta do Carmo, two other historic wineries, and controls 2,700 acres of vineyards.
When Berardo bought almost a third of Sogrape, paying roughly $60 million, he hoped to play a leading role in the company and create synergies between it and Bacalhôa. The Guedes family resisted, and the fight landed in court.
With September's deal to buy out Berardo, the Guedes family now owns more than 80 percent of Sogrape, with the Correia da Silva family gaining a larger share too. The price of the deal was not disclosed. “It is now time to devote an effort to coordinate and consolidate the distribution markets, trying to increase the value we get from the production and distribution chain," CEO Salavador Guedes told Wine Spectator. "We are very pleased with this agreement.”
“So am I," said Berardo. "My attention can now be concentrated on the future and expansion of the Bacalhôa operation. I had dreamed of a merger between Sogrape and Bacalhôa, with benefits for both parties, but that was not possible and now it’s time to move on.” Berardo said one priority is growing his Douro winery, Quinta dos Quatro Ventos. “Since it is geographically distant from our other operations, it must achieve a critical dimension. Either it grows or we will sell it.”