The Company has assembled a board with significant experience. This includes knowledge of the UK drinks sector, corporate finance expertise and connections to the Chinese market. Members of the board also have experience in building and selling businesses and are supported by a capable management team including an award-winning master distiller. Details of the board are as follows:
Michael Williams, aged 77 – Chief Executive Officer
Mr Williams is an entrepreneur with a successful track record of returning shareholder value through Public Listings and M&A strategies. In the early part of his career he held senior positions in the United States for several major software houses including HP and Altos Computers. On his return to the UK, he was Head of European sales for Cognos Inc before taking over Fletcher Dennis plc in partnership with Hillsdown Holdings. In partnership with investors he took over Cifer Plc and negotiated the reversed takeover by the Ferrari Group Ltd in 1989. In the 1990’s he was one of the founders of Freecom.net plc, one of the first companies to become active in the e-commerce market. This business went on to list on AIM and carry out a number of acquisitions including Pegasus Accounting (£52 million) and Systems Union Group PLC (£32 million). Freecom.net plc (renamed as Systems Union) was sold to Golden Gate Private Equity for $460 million. Mr Williams was instrumental in raising the early stage capital for the business and has been a driving force since its inception.
Alistair Wallace, aged 46 – Finance Director
Alistair qualified as an accountant with an ACCA in 2000 and then as a Chartered Tax Adviser with the CIOT in 2002. He set up BKB Accountants Ltd in 2005 and now employs 25 people over two sites in Poole and Wimborne. Alistair is one of the foundering shareholders of the Company and has been involved since its incorporation, providing accountancy services and support throughout.
Robert Porter-Smith, aged 63 – Executive Director
Mr Porter-Smith is a successful entrepreneur who has worked in and founded a number of B2C and B2B businesses. In particular he was instrumental in the growth of Natural Balance Foods which was sold for £60 million in 2015 to the Belgium-based biscuit maker Lotus Bakeries. He currently runs D2F which he founded in 2003. It is a digital fulfilment company that provides e-commerce, tailored incentive programmes and distribution services to health clubs, sporting bodies such as Lords, Harlequin FC and Essex County Cricket Club as well as multinationals such as Diageo and Castrol. He is also an investor in a number of businesses including Truestart Coffee, which distributes coffee and RTD coffee products.
Wafic Saϊd, aged 80 – Non-executive Director
Mr Saïd is a businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder and Chairman of the Saïd Foundation and is the founding benefactor of the Saïd Business School at Oxford University. He started his career in 1963 as a banker at UBS in Geneva and in the early 1970s he founded a construction business that specialised in turnkey construction projects in Saudi Arabia. This business was involved in building airports, desalination plants, housing and hospitals in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and 1980s. Since the 1980s, Wafic Saïd has focused on his investment and philanthropic activities. In 1987 he founded Saïd Holdings Limited (SHL), a privately-held international investment company with assets in Europe, North America and the Far East, which is now the principal investment vehicle for the Saïd family interests. Wafic Saïd is a recipient of the Sheldon Medal, awarded by the University of Oxford, a Foundation Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford and a holder of the Grand Commandeur Ordre de Mérite du Cèdre of Lebanon and Ordre de Mérite of Morocco.
Philip Seers, aged 73 –Non-executive Director
Mr Seers was educated at Oundle School and Balliol College, Oxford. He joined Credit Suisse First Boston in 1968 where he was principally involved in the Eurobond market. In 1982 he co-founded Phoenix Securities which provided corporate finance services to the financial sector and private equity investment management, focussed on mid-market UK companies. Phoenix was acquired by Morgan Grenfell in 1987: it continued to operate as a separate entity and was reacquired by the partners in 1990. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette acquired Phoenix Securities in 1997, as a platform for the development of its international corporate finance activities, and DLJ was itself acquired by Credit Suisse in 2000. Philip retired at this point and has since been a director of several large companies and an investor in early-stage companies.
Martin Riley, aged 65 – Independent Non-executive Director
Mr Riley was Chief Marketing Officer for the Pernod Ricard Group, the second biggest global spirits and wine company, until his retirement in 2015. He was President of the World Federation of Advertisers (2013/2015) an international organisation based in Brussels which comprises major international companies and national advertising associations. He has an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Greenwich in recognition of his work with their business school. He is a board member of the Gin Guild and was Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers (a City of London Livery Company) in 2019. He has 40 years’ global drinks market experience, speaks fluent French and has worked in France, Belgium, Russia and Ireland.
“Sophie” Guifang Luo, aged 51 –Non-Executive Director
Mrs Luo represents the Company’s Chinese investors on the Board and is the Company’s ambassador in China although she is based in the UK. Since 2015 she has been the managing director of a group of Chinese nurseries that has a joint venture with Craigclowan Preparatory School. She also has family interests in several Chinese businesses in Shaanxi province including a green tea plantation in Ziyang from whom the Company purchases tea and a shopping centre in Ankang.