Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates CEO and president Lewis Platt resigned on Monday, the latest and most conspicuous sign that founder Jess Jackson and his family intend to remain firmly at the helm of the Sonoma County based wine giant.
Platt's resignation comes just three weeks after Kendall-Jackson took itself off the market, rejecting offers from international wine and spirits firms such as Diageo, BRL Hardy Ltd. and Brown-Forman Corporation. Another top Kendall-Jackson executive, Paul Ginsburg -- who led the company's merger and acquisition strategy -- also recently resigned.
Jackson's wife, Barbara Banke, replaces Platt as CEO; she had already assumed the title of chair of the company when Jackson retired late last year. John Grant, 42, executive vice president of marketing, steps in as president, and will oversee day-to-day operations.
Platt, 60, joined Kendall-Jackson in January 2000 after retiring as CEO of Hewlett-Packard at the end of 1999. He was brought on board to help position Kendall-Jackson for a potential sale or IPO, as well as to expand the winery into international markets and to engineer the division of Kendall-Jackson into two business entities: Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates and Jackson Family Farms, which focuses on small-production, high-end bottlings.
Platt and Jackson could not be reached for comment, but Kendall-Jackson spokesman Jim Caudill said of Platt's decision to resign: "There's no animosity. He and Jess are planning to go fishing in Alaska in August."
Grant added, "Lew came in to do a job and he feels -- and I think justifiably -- that he finished it. I know Lew pretty well, and I do not detect any sense of animosity or disappointment the sales didn't go through."
Much of Platt's tenure at the winery was spent pursuing potential sales. The winery was reportedly in close talks with Beringer Wine Estates last year, but the deal fell through. In the latest rounds of negotiations, Jackson turned down offers that were reportedly in the $1.3 billion range.
"The management team did a great job of selling the company. They just sold it back to the Jackson family," Caudill said.
Platt will retire and focus his attention on his new house and small vineyard in west Sonoma County. Caudill said Platt is not sure what he will do with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes recently planted, but a vineyard-designated wine is not out of the question.
Check our recent ratings of Kendall-Jackson wines.
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