Three company directors leave Bibendum

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Three company directors have left wine supplier Bibendum this week - but managing director Michael Saunders insists the move is just “streamlining the management team”.

 

Trading director Richard Cochrane, who has been with the business for over 10 years; Bob Smyllie, operations director and Kirstie Papworth, director of supply, have all left the company.

 

Managing director Saunders said “nothing too dramatic” was going on. “We’re not, like a lot of other companies, having the best of years. This is just streamlining.”

 

He admitted that the departures were partly a cost-cutting measure but also aimed to “better align the business” with its clients.

 

“We have a very settled and forward-looking team,” Saunders told Harpers. He added that those involved agreed that this was the best course of action for the business.

 

“It’s been a difficult year - the global macro-economic piece is challenging. The weather has been devastating for the on-trade and London was practically empty during the Olympics. It’s not ridiculously bad, but not what we’ve been anticipating,” he said.

 

“I don’t want this to be misinterpreted,” he said, likening the changes to a football manager rejigging the team. He defended the firm’s actions, dismissing speculation about the firm as “idle chat”. “We sold Argento, we’re having an OK year - that doesn’t add up to some form of crisis.”

 

Bibendum is privately owned, predominantly by its management team, with Internation Wine Investment Fund owning 20% of the firm and the balance held by private shareholders.

 

Back in May, the company bought the remaining third of Argentinian wine producer Argento, but it sold that business outright in September. “That gives us a very tidy sum of money in the balance sheet,” Saunders added, saying that it made sense to sell after another business approached it.

 

He predicted further consolidation in the drinks industry, saying: “Not enough people are making nearly enough money.”

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