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Napa Valley vintner Ann Colgin on selling control of the elite winery she built

Her decision to sell a majority stake in her company to LVMH was tough but vital

Colgin Cellars, Ann Colgin’s acclaimed Napa Valley winery, has developed a cult following. The waiting list for its wines stretches to two years and includes royalty and heads of state. Almost two years ago, French luxury house LVMH bought a controlling stake in the business. Colgin Cellars became the fourth winery in the company’s “Vins d’Exception” group, and the only one outside France.

Given she is 61, with no children and therefore no obvious line of succession, Colgin’s decision to sell control of her company might sound sensible enough, but it was not an easy one for her. “When you’re an entrepreneur and you put your heart and soul and so much time, effort — everything — into a business for so many years, giving it up is hard to do,” she says. “But my husband and I realised we really want the Colgin brand to continue and thrive for many years after we’re no longer here.” She says she has no plans to retire yet. But nor was the acquisition part of her plans. It gave LVMH a 60 per cent stake for an undisclosed price but saw Colgin retained in her leadership role along with her winemaker.

It came about by chance after a social introduction to Bernard Arnault, LVMH chief executive, with whom she had an interest in art and philanthropy in common. “My husband and I had never entertained taking on a partner, but we met Arnault and he was so completely aligned with our vision for the future,” Colgin says. “He was unwilling to ask us to sacrifice any of the care and attention to detail that our clients expect from Colgin Cellars. So we chose to work with LVMH because we had the opportunity to be a part of a very special group of wineries operating at the highest levels in the industry.”

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