Majestic Wine to sell retail & commercial units to Fortress for US$121m

UK – Majetsic wine, UK largest wine retailer, is set to offload its retail and commercial business for US$121.06 million (£100m) after entering into a sale agreement with US-based Fortress Investment Group LLC.

Under the agreement, the British wine retailer will sell its stores, website, headquarters and on-trade and French divisions as it looks to rebrand itself into a purely online retailer.

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“Majestic has been on the UK high street for almost 40 years, building a bank of affection for our bottles, people and stores,” said Joshua Lincoln, managing director at Majestic.

“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.

“Majestic has grown through periods of dramatic change, I know we have the recipe to do it again. We want to keep investing in our stores, in our people and our product – everything you can feel, touch and sip,” he added.

Majestic said it will use the net proceeds from the sale to cut debt, invest in its Naked Wines business and return US$4.62 million (3.8 million pounds) to shareholders through a special dividend, the Reuters reports.

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According to the US investment firm, it sees “Majestic as providing a great opportunity to enter UK retail”, pointing to the group’s “strong cross channel journey, expert staff and widespread brand affection” as affecting its decision to buy the business.

 “Majestic is a British institution, occupying a unique position as the nation’s largest wine retailer,” said a representative of Fortress Investment Group LLC.

“It offers a seamless customer experience across multiple channels – physical retail, online, subscription and to the on-trade – and has a customer base which loves its stores, people, brand and – of course – wines. We are excited to work with management to grow the Majestic story.”

The company, which has over a million customers in Britain, the United States and Australia, plans to rename itself Naked Wines Plc. It bought the online retail business in 2015 and has since more than doubled its size.

Majestic, which was founded in 1980, sells more than 37 million bottles of wine, spirits and beers each year and has over a million customers. It had a turnover of over US$363 million (£300m) last year.

The retail portfolio has around 200 shops while the commercial unit supplies wine to businesses. The company is also said to be exploring the sale of its Lay and Wheeler business, a specialist fine wine merchant.

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