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Grateful Palate's Australian Wineries Up for Sale

Anyone want to buy a lot of Bitch Grenache? Financially troubled labels to be sold off

Harvey Steiman
Posted: September 1, 2010

The Australian companies that produce wine for American importer Dan Philips under labels such as Evil Cabernet Sauvignon, Bitch Grenache and Marquis Philips are up for sale. Philips' Australian affiliates, which produce wine for his import company, the Grateful Palate, are in receivership and face possible bankruptcy. The firm supervising the settling of the companies' debts, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, is accepting bids for the troubled brands and other assets. The deadline for offers is Sept. 10.

R Wines, R Winery, Philips Australia, Grateful Palate International and 3 Rings were placed in receivership in June, in an action initiated by the companies’ prime lender, Dutch bank Rabobank. Wine Spectator has obtained a copy of a PriceWaterhouseCoopers memorandum soliciting bids. In the memo, the accounting firm notes that it has been unable to sell or ship any wines to the U.S. since May. As a result, they are focusing on developing markets outside the U.S. It's unclear if the brands will be available to American consumers in the future.

Philips’ U.S. company, the Grateful Palate Inc., which is not included in the offer, imports a range of Australian wines, including some 75 percent of the R Winery Group’s products. The rest are sold mainly in Australia and Asia.

One U.S. importer told Wine Spectator that he wants to bid on at least some of the brands in the portfolio. Some of Philips’ partners in 3 Rings, one of the Australian companies involved, earlier indicated that they wanted to buy out that company and continue to sell to the U.S.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers is offering a package that includes 30 brands, 1.6 million gallons of bulk wine in storage, bottled wine inventory of 40,000 cases, an office and warehouse facility in Adelaide, and two vineyards—the 24-acre Blewitt Springs Vineyard in McLaren Vale and the 34-acre Hahn Vineyard in Barossa Valley. Although the current offering is for the entire package, the general terms give the receivers plenty of leeway to accept, reject or alter any bids. It's possible the brands could be split up.

No asking price was specified. In an e-mail message, the receivers said they wanted to determine “what interest there is, if any, from potential purchasers.”

Most of the various companies’ production goes into popularly priced wines with clever, colorful labels for Grateful Palate. Several of the wines enjoyed notable success in America, including Boarding Pass and First Class, Darby & Joan, Strong Arms, Punk Bubbles and Bon-Bon Rosé. Some of those are owned separately by Philips in the U.S., but the receivers said they “may become available as part of the sale process.”

Philips did not respond to requests for comment.

Tim Kollmeyer
Hartland, Wisconsin. USA —  September 2, 2010 11:29am ET
Really sad to see this! We have enjoyed educating our customers on these great wines for the past 3 plus years! Hopefully, something can be worked out. The SUXX Shiraz, Evil Chardonnay, Boarding Pass Shiraz were some favorites of our Customers!
Michael Opdahl
Los Angeles, CA —  September 2, 2010 11:46am ET
An interesting point to all of this that nobody is discussing is that some/most of the case-volume brands (Marquis Philips, Bitch, Boarding Pass, Strong Arms, etc), as listed in the prospectus, are basically worthless to an outside purchaser. Dan Philips owns most/all of the IP/trademarks as an individual in the U.S. They are not included in the listed sale of R Winery Pty Ltd & the other Aussie entities currently in receivership. The U.S. trademarks give him fairly comprehensive protection from anyone producing, much less selling, these branded wines in Australia, North America & most of Europe (95%+ of the historical R Wines market). Unless Dan Philips sells, or licenses these brands to an outside entity, or reconstitutes production of the wines himself, I don't see how anyone can produce the U.S. protected brands w/o his permission & sell them into existing markets.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  September 2, 2010 7:57pm ET
They could buy it and just throw one big party for everyone in Australia!

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