Huge news in the wine world broke yesterday. Robert Parker, founder of the Wine Advocate and the world’s most influential wine critic, announced plans to sell a portion of the business to three unnamed investors and to step down as editor-in-chief. (Here’s an interview in MarketWatch from last month with good background, with Parker’s assurance he’d never give up editorial control.)
In addition to that about face, this raises other questions. Why now, and why not say who the new investors are? Is this the start of a gradual retirement, or a smart reorganization that will bring even greater success? How can The Wine Advocate accept advertising without compromising editorial credibility? Will the balance of power inside the organization really be in the new Singapore office, or will it remain in Monkton, Maryland?
My take based on early reporting is that this is a business move, not the first step of retirement. Asia is booming, and millions will pay top dollar for Western luxury goods crowned the absolute best. The chance to make the wine market in the most rapidly developing economic region in the world is what is motivating Parker, despite the risks to his company and legacy.
Also, giving up the editor-in-chief title is not the same as truly ceding editorial control. Lisa Perotti-Brown, the new editor, works for The Wine Advocate now and Parker will remain Chairman and continue to review wine. Parker already seems to be sending out such signals, some via Twitter.
As Felix Salmon’s Reuters piece lays out, there are plenty of challenges along with opportunities in this move. You have to think more shoes will drop in this story.
Business motives aside, what about the effect of this move on the wine market? Here are some of my favorite wine bloggers opining on the news.
UPDATE: Details emerge here, courtesy of Decanter via Dr. Vino.
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