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Foley Family Wines Expands in New Zealand

Growing company announces purchase of Martinborough Vineyard Estates on North Island

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: February 7, 2014

Bill Foley's growing company of nearly 20 different wine brands in California, Washington and New Zealand has announced its intention to acquire Martinborough Vineyard Estates. A purchase price wasn’t disclosed; the transaction will result in a stock-for-stock exchange between Martinborough Vineyard Estates and Foley Family Wines, which is a publicly traded company in New Zealand. The deal is expected to be complete by March 31.

“We’re going to become a dominant player in Martinborough,” said Foley, who already owns Te Karinga winery, located near the Martinborough Vineyard Estates. Foley’s extensive holdings in New Zealand include several brands, including Grove Mill and Vavasour. Adding Martinborough Vineyard Estates gives Foley a total of 1,100 acres of vines and 550,000 cases of total production in New Zealand.

Martinborough Vineyard Estates, located in the Martinborough growing region at the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, was founded by a small group of investors in 1980. They became the first in the area to plant Pinot Noir, after a report by government scientists declared the climate similar to Burgundy's. According to Foley, they produce about 30,000 cases annually and own 200 acres of vineyards.

Based in Jacksonville, Fla., Foley is chairman of Fidelity National Financial. He first entered the wine business in 1996 when he established Lincourt Vineyards in Santa Barbara. Since 2007, he has purchased or taken a majority stake in multiple wineries and vineyards, including well-known California brands Sebastiani Winery, Chalk Hill, Merus and Firestone.

His recent investments in New Zealand also come outside of wine production. “I’m going to try to do the same thing in New Zealand as I did in California; vertically integrate,” said Foley, pointing out that he owns vineyards, production facilities and a distributor. He also owns the luxury Wharekauhau lodge in the Wairarapa region of New Zealand, and has taken a quarter stake in the Nourish restaurant chain, a group of high-end eateries in the country, giving him a clear channel to sell New Zealand wines locally.

Foley will also continue to bring his New Zealand wines into the United States. “We’re seeing a good reception for the brands we’re bringing in,” said Foley. “Growth has been about 15 percent a year.”

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