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 founding 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.
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.
“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.
Geoffrey Lennox, aged 64 - Independent Non-Executive Director
Mr Lennox is a successful entrepreneur with a strong track record of building successful businesses and enhancing shareholder value. He was responsible for the creation of the first ever national database and supply agency for lecturers and teachers in further education, utilising leading edge technologies of the time. This business was acquired by VCs in 2000. Lennox has been the chief executive of a number of businesses which have followed successful buy and build strategies and has worked in both private and public companies. These businesses have realised values in excess of £100m. He has a strong background in deploying technology to enhance business efficiencies and deliver improved customer experience. Lennox is currently a principle shareholder Chairman of a number of businesses in the recruitment and hospitality industries together with businesses engaged in the gifting and personalisation. He has a strong track record of working with global partners to deliver products and services in more than 70 countries worldwide. Mr Lennox has wide experience of raising early stage capital and building successful management teams to achieve rapid and sustained growth across a range of business sectors, he is a director who believes in leading from the front.