Corinne Mentzelopoulos, longtime managing director of Château Margaux, and the Agnelli family of Italy, which held a controlling interest in the Bordeaux first-growth, struck a deal by which the Mentzelopoulos family will acquire total ownership of the estate. The price was not disclosed; the deal is expected to close in 10 days.
"I am happy and proud for my family and myself. I don't think I could have coped with losing it," Mentzelopoulos said. "Professionally speaking, this is the happiest day of my life." The estate will be purchased by the Mentzelopoulos family's holding company, Soparexo.
Last week, the news broke that the Agnelli family wanted to sell its stake in Margaux to raise capital for its troubled conglomerate (which includes the money-losing Fiat car manufacturer) following the death of patriarch Gianni Agnelli in January. The Agnellis had owned the controlling interest in Margaux since 1991.
Under an agreement with the Agnellis, whose shares in Margaux were held through a company called Exor, Mentzelopoulos had the right of first refusal to buy the Agnelli shares if they were offered for sale. The value of Château Margaux has been estimated at $329 million to $439 million (300 million euros to 400 million euros).
Prior to the deal, Mentzelopoulos and her family, who originally purchased the estate in 1977, directly owned 25 percent of the 650-acre estate. In addition, Mentzelopoulos owned some portion of the 75 percent held by Exor, following a complex investment arrangement she made with the Agnellis more than a decade ago.
In a separate deal, Mentzelopoulos will sell all her shares in Exor. "I cherished the special relationship and trust I had with the late Gianni Agnelli and the friendship with the whole Agnellis top management, especially the chief executive, Gianluigi Gabetti," Mentzelopoulos said.
Mentzelopoulos' father, André, a self-made tycoon who once owned a convenience-store chain of 1,800 shops, bought Château Margaux for 72 million francs, or roughly $14.4 million, in 1977. For the past 25 years, Margaux has invested heavily in upgrading the château, the vineyards, the winery, offices and other buildings. Today, Margaux is at the pinnacle of quality in Bordeaux. The 2000 Château Margaux (rated 95-100 points, $425) is one of the best wines of the vintage.
Mentzelopoulos said she does not intend to change much once she is in complete control. "It's business as usual," she said. "It doesn't change my daily life, since I've been running Château Margaux for the past 22 years."
Check our recent ratings of Château Margaux wines.
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