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Bacchus Capital Invests in Wine Import and Distribution Company

Maritime Adds Nine North Brands to Its Portfolio
by Cyril Penn
January 23, 2013

Private equity firm Bacchus Capital Management has announced making an investment in Maritime Wine Trading Collective, the San Francisco-based wine import, production, and distribution firm. Concurrent with the investment, Maritime is adding Nine North Brands, a producer of Napa and North Coast red wines, to its portfolio.

The announcement marks Bacchus’ seventh deal in the wine industry - its first with an importer and marketer. Terms were not disclosed. Bacchus typically makes investments in a range of $2 million to $7 million.

“We were pleased to put our capital to work immediately, with Maritime’s addition of the Nine North brands,” Sam Bronfman, co-founder and managing partner of Bacchus Capital said in making the announcement. Bronfman also said that adding a company with sales and marketing capabilities to its portfolio may provide value for Bacchus’ winery partners.

Maritime Wine Trading Collective’s portfolio includes Graham Beck of South Africa and Jules Taylor of New Zealand, in addition to wines from Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Sicily, and Canada. The company was founded by Chris Nickolopoulos and Elijah Pfister in 2009 and expects to market 130,000 to 140,000 cases of wine this year with the addition of Nine North.

In an interview, Nickolopoulos described Maritime, as “on the big side of small, but much smaller than the big players.”

Nine North, founded in Napa Valley by James Harder and Jim Regusci, was included on Wine Business Monthly’s Hot Small Brands list for 2006. Volume has since grown to reach 55,000 cases of wine per year, though the company has little marketing or sales staff.

Founded five years ago, Bacchus’ portfolio companies are Sbragia Family Vineyards, Andretti Winery, Pietra Santa, Qupé, and Wine by Joe. Bacchus previously provided financing for Cameron Hughes Wine and emphasizes a “flexible approach” to capital, from debt to equity financing.

“We’re always on the lookout for good businesses in the wine space run by people who are good at what they do,” Bacchus co-founder and managing partner Peter Kaufman said.

Nickolopoulos said the capital provided by Bacchus will allow the company to continue to grow, primarily by adding people. “One of the great things about the industry that we all enjoy that it’s a small, sometimes incestuous industry that’s relationship based,” he said. “Brands get built by people.”

Bronfman, a former chief executive for Seagram Chateau and Estate Wines, said that while Seagram marketed well-known, international brands, Maritime has built brands and developed its own brands. “They come at it from a wonderful perspective that I respect tremendously: the entrepreneurial side. They’ve done a good job of establishing a very successful distribution platform. I think they’re going to grow beyond the large side of small.”

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