Majestic Wine sale leaves Naked Wines as listed entity

Drinks retailer Majestic Wine has today (2 August) announced it has agreed a £95 million sale to US investment group Fortress.

The deal will leave Naked Wines, an online-only crowdfunded, subscription service acquired by Majestic in 2015, as a standalone listed plc on the London Stock Exchange.

A separate sale of one freehold property previously owned by Majestic to an independent third party is expected to realise a further £5 million, subject to approval of a planning application for redevelopment, which would bring the total sale figure to circa £100 million.

Fortress has taken on Majestic’s 180 UK stores, two French shops, website, headquarters, and on-trade arm, but the focus of the business will be on physical retail, service, and offering wine expertise. Josh Lincoln will remain as managing director.

Majestic group CEO Rowan Gormley will continue to lead the Naked Wines entity, and his comments this morning indicate that the separate businesses proved too different to run as a combined organisation.

"I am delighted that we have managed to secure an independent future for both Naked and Majestic Retail and Commercial, allowing both companies to pursue growth by focusing on their unique propositions,” he said.

Lincoln talked up the almost 40-year history of Majestic and acknowledged it was important to build on its heritage. He also said customer reaction to Majestic’s announcement in the spring, when it was suggested the business might close down, emphasises an appetite for the brand.

“In March when it was announced Majestic may be closed, or rebranded, I received thousands of emails from concerned customers – with some incredible stories about our wines and people – it made finding a suitable buyer for the business crucial,” he said.

“We intend to be the leader in the UK retail revolution with a focus on experience, expertise and product. Over 1,000 roles and Majestic’s store network will remain.”

He added: “We want to keep investing in our stores, in our people and our product – everything you can feel, touch and sip. After all, you cannot taste wine online.”

Majestic still plans to operate a multichannel model, though, and today said it is conducting a full range review to ensure it is stocking the right products overseen by new buying and merchandising director, Robert Cooke, ex-director of beers, wines and spirits at Tesco.

Stores will be refitted with new shelving and tasting areas, and there are plan to roll out a new ‘Wineify’ service – a way of gauging a customer’s palate with eight wines before directing them to appropriate drink ranges online or in-store.

New Majestic subscription services ‘Concierge’ and ‘Lock It In’ – highlighting Naked’s influence on the traditional business in recent years – have a combined customer base of 45,000, and will continue to be run by Majestic in its new guise.