French luxury goods firm EPI signed a deal today to become a partner and controlling owner of Folio Fine Wine Partners, a Napa-based importer, marketing and distribution company owned by Michael Mondavi and his family. The price of the deal, which includes a 60 percent stake in the company but does not include Michael Mondavi Family wines, was not disclosed.
EPI, which is the holding company of the Descours family, owns numerous upscale brands, including Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck Champagnes and a significant stake in Italy's Biondi-Santi. (Learn more about how the iconic Brunello producer has since evolved.) Folio has been the United States distributor for Charles Heidsieck for five years.
Paolo Battegazzore will continue as Folio CEO with his existing leadership team, while Damien Lafaurie, president of EPI's wine and Champagne division, will join Folio's board of directors. "They essentially don't want to make any changes to management," Mondavi said.
The partnership was proposed by Christopher Descours at Vinitaly in May 2019, and the two families have been in discussions since. EPI's investment in Folio, Mondavi said, will go toward capital investments to expand the business. "The EPI values, vision and commitment to brand building align perfectly with Folio, and this partnership is testament to the quality of company that our team has created."
In a statement, Lafaurie said, "We are delighted to join Folio as a shareholder and to help it develop further."
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Folio was launched in 2004, soon after Mondavi resigned from Robert Mondavi Winery. It is a partnership with his wife, Isabel, and their children, Dina and Rob Jr. The goal, Mondavi explained, was to pull together numerous family-owned wineries and work with them to build marketing and distribution in an increasingly challenging market.
Today, Folio represents 39 brands, owned by 19 families, in the U.S. and around the world. Wineries include Bruno Giacosa and Villa Sandi in Italy, Domaine les Cailloux and Maison Champy in France and Dutton-Goldfield in California. The company claims sales in 2019 were 700,000 nine-liter cases. The three largest brands by volume last year were California's Oberon, Spellbound and Argentina's Susana Balbo Wines.