A Big Transition Period Is Coming Soon

    SVB Silicon Valley Bank, a leading provider of commercial banking services to the wine industry, along with Scion Advisors, a leading wine business advisory group, announced research findings that reveal 51 percent of Western U.S. wineries will transition to new ownership in the next 10 years.

     The full research report, “Ownership Transitions in the Wine Industry,” is based on a comprehensive survey of family-owned wine businesses throughout California, Oregon and Washington.

     Since 88 percent of California wineries in business today were formed after 1975, and three-quarters are still controlled by their founders, these changes are a direct reflection of the age and maturity of the U.S. wine industry. Other factors forcing upcoming transitions include the owners’ life stage, and increasingly complicated regulatory, competitive, sales and marketing business issues affecting wineries today.

     “The ripple effect of this change in management and ownership in the wine industry will be significant,” said Rob McMillan, founder of SVB Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division and author of SVB’s Annual State of the Wine Industry report. “This widespread power shift has the potential to disrupt relationships with wine growing boards, distributors, associations and so on. This report is serving as a major wake-up call for the industry.”

     The data also revealed family-controlled wineries are not prepared strategically or financially for the vast number of transitions anticipated in five to 10 years through a change of hands to the next generation, professional management or a sale to a third party.

     “Effective transition planning, whether it’s to turn over the business to heirs or to sell to a third party, takes five to 10 years. A mere fraction of the owners who plan to retire within 10 years have begun any kind of proper preparation at all,” said Deborah Steinthal, founding partner at Scion Advisors. “The consequences are huge. Ill-advised heirs could be set up for failure, or the owner is likely to be disappointed in the market’s value of their life’s work.”

     The survey data identified ineffective planning and a lack of communication as the key obstacles to transitioning business ownership successfully. Eighty percent of significant stakeholders in these family businesses have no knowledge of the senior generation’s share-transfer intentions. More than 70 percent of those planning to transition ownership within 10 years reported having done no planning at all — including defining roles and responsibilities for their heirs.


Posted in The Wine Business
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