Famed Bordeaux first-growth Château Margaux is up for sale, as the Agnelli family of Italy has decided to sell the controlling interest that it has held in the estate since 1991. Managing director Corinne Mentzelopolous, whose family bought the estate in 1977 and still owns part of it, confirmed her interest in regaining control of the property.
The parties declined to provide details about the negotiations this week, or whether Mentzelopoulos had made a firm offer to buy back the Agnellis' shares, held through a company called the Exor Group, which owns 75 percent of Margaux. But the potential sale has been the subject of press reports in Europe and excited conversation in Bordeaux wine circles.
"Everyone knows that the Agnellis wish to sell [their Margaux shares], but apparently no deal has been concluded yet [between them and Mentzelopoulos]," a well-placed source in Bordeaux told Wine Spectator this week. "It is no mystery that it is her intention to buy it back. She has the means and the desire to do so."
"Obviously, I am interested," Mentzelopoulos, 49, told Wine Spectator today.
Mentzelopoulos is well positioned to take control of Margaux if she wants to. Under an agreement with the Agnelli family, she has the right of first refusal to buy the Agnelli shares if they are offered for sale, sources say.
The value of Château Margaux has been estimated at $329 million to $439 million (300 million euros to 400 million euros); Exor is currently conducting an evaluation to determine a precise figure, according to corporate spokesman Seth Goldschlager. The Agnelli family is seeking to raise capital for its troubled conglomerate, which includes the money-losing Fiat car manufacturer, following the death of patriarch Gianni Agnelli in January at the age of 81.
Mentzelopoulous and her family directly own 25 percent of the 650-acre estate, which has 222 acres of vines planted to red grape varieties in the Margaux appellation and produces a Bordeaux Blanc from 30 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. In addition, Mentzelopoulos owns some portion of the 75 percent held by Exor, following a complex investment arrangement she made with the Agnellis more than a decade ago.
"They sought high-quality real estate [and] high-quality wine," Mentzelopoulos said at the time. "It was a perfect diversification for them."
Mentzelopoulos' father, André, a self-made tycoon who once owned a convenience-store chain of 1,800 shops, bought 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 (95—100 points, $425) is one of the best wines of the vintage.
If the Margaux stake sells for a price that values the estate at $300 million to $400 million, it would be the most expensive château ever. Other top estates have changed hands in recent years at far lower prices. In 1999, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton purchased 64 percent of Château d'Yquem as the culmination of a 1996 deal that valued the entire Sauternes estate at around 1 billion francs, or $191 million. Château Cheval-Blanc in St.-Emilion was sold in 1998 to billionaires Albert Frère and Bernard Arnault for a reported $156 million. And first-growth Château Latour was sold to French industrialist François Pinault in 1993 for $126 million.
Check our recent ratings of Château Margaux"> wines.
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