Opus One, the Napa Valley partnership between Robert Mondavi Winery and French company Baron Philippe de Rothschild, announced today that David Pearson is its new CEO. Pearson, who previously worked with Mondavi as a vice president in charge of Byron Estate on California's Central Coast, is the first person ever given sole responsibility for the high-profile venture, which formerly had co-CEOs.
"This is something both [Mondavi and Rothschild] wanted to do for many years," said Roger Asleson, director of public relations at Opus One. "Opus is more mature and autonomous now, so it's not looking so much to the partners for direction."
Opus One was founded in 1979. The most recent co-CEOs -- Peter Ventura, who represented Mondavi, and Douglas Morton, who represented Rothschild -- stepped down this month.
Also announced today was Michael Silacci's appointment as winemaker. Silacci has been director of viticulture and enology at Opus One since February 2001. Previously, Mondavi's chief winemaker, Tim Mondavi, shared responsibility for Opus production with Patrick Léon, winemaker for Château Mouton-Rothschild. But Léon retired in December, leaving Silacci with final say over winemaking decisions. Tim Mondavi will continue at Opus as a consultant.
These moves come among a bevy of recent changes at Robert Mondavi Winery. On Jan. 9, the company announced that Michael Mondavi was stepping down as CEO to focus on wine sales, leaving corporate responsibilities to Ted Hall. And yesterday, Mondavi sold its 50-percent stake in Viña Caliterra, a Chilean venture it started in 1996 with Viña Errázuriz.
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