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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tom Cannavan

Online retailer Madaboutwine has been sold to Cellarmasters, the Australian direct-selling giant which trades in the UK as The Australian Wine Club, and is owned by the Foster's group. In e-watch, 6 July, Harpers investigated Madaboutwine's switch of focus to become a "silent" fulfilment partner to various branded businesses, principally, and the wine club of the Goldfish credit card business. It appears Cellarmasters has taken on only parts of these underlying businesses. Wine PR for Safeway, Sue Stamps, told Harpers that, "Safewaywinesdirect ceased trading on 31 August. We are seeking a new partner." Luc Warner, spokesman for Goldfish, confirmed that it is "happy to continue our arrangement with Madaboutwine". Contacted by Harpers, Mark Bedini, founder of Madaboutwine, said that "very few" of Madaboutwine's staff would be retained, and that Lara Legassick, former CEO, had in fact left the company in June. Bedini is one of the pioneers of Internet wine retailing, having launched Fine & Rare Wines in 1995. He said: "Obviously I am deeply disappointed to no longer have an interest in Madaboutwine. Ironically I believe the company was only a year or so away from developing strong sales into profitability." Bedini will now concentrate on Fine & Rare Wines. No one from Cellarmasters was available to speak to Harpers as we went to press, but the story will be followed up in the next e-watch column. Speculation is bound to surround the future of the Australian Wine Club's website, and how in its future UK and European operations Cellarmasters will exploit the high brand awareness Madaboutwine had achieved.