Château Cantenac-Brown, a third-growth Bordeaux estate in Margaux, has a new owner. AXA Millésimes, the French insurance giant that owns several prominent properties in Bordeaux and other wine regions in Europe, finalized an agreement on March 20 to sell Cantenac-Brown to the Halabi family, headed by Simon Halabi, a London-based real-estate investor and reputed wine connoisseur.
The sale price was not disclosed, but sources in Bordeaux estimate it to be around $72 million. Halabi can certainly afford that. Born in Syria but now a British citizen, he heads the investment group Buckingham Securities and is reportedly worth more than $1.2 billion.
AXA had confirmed in January that sale talks were underway, but would not confirm the buyer until the deal was closed.
According to José Sanfins, estate manager at Cantenac-Brown since 1989, it will be business as usual for the foreseeable future. "The vineyards are in great condition--thanks to the hard work over the years," he said. "Our overall aim now is to see Cantenac-Brown recognized as one of the best wines in Margaux."
AXA bought the property in 1987 and made major investments in the vineyards and the winery. The 2000 Cantenac-Brown scored 92 points on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale.
The nearly 188-acre estate, located a mile from Château Margaux in the commune of Cantenac, contains 104 acres of vineyards in the Margaux appellation and 27 acres in the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation. The château itself bears a distinct resemblance to an English Victorian manor house.
Today, Christian Seely, who manages AXA's wine portfolio, confirmed earlier reports that cash from the sale of Cantenac-Brown could be used to buy new properties outside Bordeaux as part of a diversification strategy. Such a move would loosen the company's dependence on the fortunes of the region. Yet Seely declined to elaborate on the details of any planned purchases.
AXA currently owns Châteaus Pichon-Longueville-Baron and Pibran in Pauillac, Château Petit-Village in Pomerol and Château Suduiraut in Sauternes. Outside Bordeaux, the company owns Château Belles Eaux in Languedoc, Quinta do Noval in Portugal and Disznókó in Hungary.