William Foley – the billionaire in our vines | Stuff.co.nz

The new laird of Wharekauhau wails. “I wish I had more depth!” American billionaire William P Foley II (Bill to pretty much everybody) has been fielding those annoying little questions that writers of profiles (this one, anyway) like to ask. What do you enjoy reading? “Military history – I’ve just finished The 900 Days about the siege of Leningrad.” Favourite music? “Country and western, especially female singers like Patty Loveless and Gretchen Wilson.” It’s the last reply that brought on the depth wish. “Country and western! Why not Beethoven’s 6th or something?” He’s joking, or is he? After talking to Foley for a couple of hours, I’m left feeling he’s quite comfortable with who he is. Also that he’s utterly unpretentious (Exhibit A: the white T-shirt under the old V-neck with a few stains on the sleeve) and speaks his mind. At one stage, he says: “I’d love to be a writer. I’ve got a book I’ve been fooling with forever.” I do think he harbours some small regret that all those years of sitting at America’s corporate poker table left parts of him unexercised. If so, that awareness itself reflects a degree of depth. What’s more, Foley is now cashing in his very large of stack of chips. No, he’s not about to enrol in a Beethoven appreciation course; he’s found himself another gaming table – a far more convivial one, though not without its own tough odds. Wine is what Foley is increasingly about these days. He’s collecting wineries, with collateral dabblings such as his purchase last year (with two other parties) of Wharekauhau, the South Wairarapa luxury lodge. It was reported at the time to be worth more than $24 million. The club of wealthy Americans who have invested in the New Zealand wine industry is small and discreet. It includes Las Vegas casino magnate Glenn Schaeffer, who is behind Nelson’s Woollaston Estate, and Wall Street tycoon Julian Robertson, who owns Wairarapa’s iconic Dry River winery and Hawke’s Bay labels Te Awa and Kidnapper Cliffs. Foley gained membership only recently. His first acquisition was the New Zealand Wine Fund in 2009. Previously a private investment vehicle for wealthy individuals, the entity houses a cluster of Marlborough brands including Vavasour, Dashwood, Redwood Pass, Boatshed Bay, Goldwater and Clifford Bay. For good measure, Foley also bought a 50 per cent stake in the seasoned New Zealand wine distribution company EuroVintage. This year, he added to the portfolio pioneering Martinborough winery Te Kairanga, and now runs all his New Zealand operations from the Te Kairanga office. And he’s not finished yet. “There’ll be some more opportunities. I’m looking for appellations or locations. Martinborough is perfect – it has a great history for pinot noir. So that’s covered. I would go to Central Otago, but I’m all about not stressing out trying to get somewhere. In Marlborough I would keep on going. I’d buy more vineyards – if there was a good brand available I’d buy that and really try and build up my production base, get the company doing three-quarters of a million cases in New Zealand so we’ve got some size and mass. And maybe add some more distribution horsepower. So that’s sort of my idea for New Zealand.” At this time of pain and price cutting in the New Zealand wine industry, that manifesto seems barely credible. Here is someone who wants to invest where others have been losing their shirts, where scared banks are calling the shots on highly leveraged operations, where half of Marlborough, New Zealand wine’s beating heart, seems up for sale.

Source: William Foley – the billionaire in our vines | Stuff.co.nz

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About Stephen G. Barr, Group Publisher

Author, Syndicated Columnist, Editor In-Chief and Group Publisher at SGB Media Group, a social media marketing firm specializing in digital media content production, publishing, affiliate marketing, public relations and advertising. Over 25 years experience in retailing, advertising, website & online forum development, niche social networking, affiliate marketing, search optimization, branding and identity, site location, non-profit fund raising. Event planning, promotion, production and MC/Host at public events. Author, Editor & Publisher of 35 syndicated, digital publications utilizing multiple digital distribution channels in conjunction with launching and administrating national advertising campaigns for major Fortune 500 advertisers in partnership with Google, Ning, Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo, DoubleClick, LinkShare, PepperJam and other industry leading third party affiliate networks. Product development team member from conception to launch on many websites, tangible goods and organizational structure for start ups. Specialties: Public relations, retailing, advertising, website & online forum development, niche social networking, blogging, email campaigns, affiliate/performance marketing, search optimization, branding and identity, site location, event production & promotion, non-profit fund raising and tasteful, responsible adult content publishing. An internationally recognized and read social media columnist & pundit on The Examiner, Associate Content, Vator.tv, X-Biz.net and Technorati and his own affiliated sites.
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