Why did your family business decide to open up its capital to an investor?
In 2007, my father and my aunt - who were the fourth generation working the vineyard - wanted to transfer the business to myself and my brother Armin, because we were taking on more and more responsibility within the business. We represented the 5th generation and were becoming increasingly involved, and an ambitious modernization plan was being implemented which required heavy investment. As both owners and producers, we were doing everything, from planting vines to bottling. Handing over the company - particularly in our business where there are a lot of fixed assets - is a very expensive option in France. It would have been difficult for the vineyard to finance both this and the modernization at the same time.
The partnership provided leverage for our investment. We were able to move more quickly than we could ever have imagined.
Was bringing in a financial partner the only solution?
We also looked into financing the transfer by means of senior debt (a combination of borrowing and donation). But it was safer to involve a minority. And we have been proven right, given the challenging weather conditions of 2007 and 2008, two difficult years. If we had gone down the debt route, we would have not have been able to respond so effectively.
Were you looking for a particular set of specifications in a financial partner ?
Ours is a family business and we would really like it to remain that way. Our aim is to pass on the business to the next generation. We were looking for a partner with a long-term vision, as this is compatible with the slow pace of life that is an intrinsic part of running a vineyard. In addition to their human approach, this is one of the main criteria that led us to choose Crédit Mutuel Equity.
Did this new situation significantly change your way of working?
Yes, it's been like a small cultural revolution as we were used to just working with family. By opening ourselves up to the outside world, we have had to become more communicative and formalize the decision-making process. It requires more effort to working with people who are not from our industry and you have to explain things more clearly. It's quite time-consuming to begin with but it does stimulate the thought process. Our partner has learnt this by working with other companies which have opened themselves up to new opportunities. On a more practical level, this partnership has provided leverage for our investment. We were able to move more quickly than we ever could have imagined, particularly in terms of the growth of our vineyard and our winemaking facilities.
To devote yourself fully to your business, you need to have peace of mind and avoid wasting your energy on confrontation.
We also received help in establishing working relationships with service providers in areas where we did not have much experience.
With hindsight, what would you say to the owner of a family business who is wondering whether to take on an investor?
If it is with a view to develop and secure the future of the business, I recommend choosing a partner that invests its own money. This investor will be making a long-term commitment and will, by nature, be less aggressive. The business owner should also be careful when assessing the quality of the human relationship. To devote yourself fully to your business, you need to have peace of mind and avoid wasting your energy on confrontation.
Domaine Tariquet in brief
- 35 M€
Domaine Tariquet is located in the heart of the Gers region, and produces 9 million bottles of white wine and 140,000 bottles of Bas-Armagnac each year, selling to over 60 countries.
Having specialised for many years in Bas-Armagnac, Domaine Tariquet is now known around the world for its Côte de Gascogne, voted white wine of the year in London in 1987. Since 2007, the company has been run by Armin and Rémy Grassa, the two brothers who represent the fifth generation of the family.