An Open Letter to Bob Betz Regarding the Sale of Betz Family Winery



By John ~ April 7th, 2011.

Dear Bob,

Congratulations! This morning as I was reading the news release announcing the sale of Betz Family Winery, a flood of memories went through my mind. It is almost ten years to the day that I sold my investment management business in a similar transaction.

It had become apparent to me that I needed a succession plan in case something happened to me; and I wanted to off-load the administrative responsibilities that had begun to require more of my time than I wanted to give to them. At the same time, Kori and Colby had made it clear that taking over my business was not a long-term goal for them.

So, similar to what you are doing today, I sold my business in what we called a merger, and that you are characterizing as a partnership. In my case, very similar to yours, I had a contract to provide investment management expertise to my buyer just as you have agreed to provide winemaking and vineyard expertise to the Griessels.

I sincerely hope that you and Cathy will be as happy ten years from now as LaGayle and I are. As we get older, we realize that time is more precious than money; and the biggest thing that the sale of our business gave us was more control over our time. However, I must also be honest and tell you that no longer being “numero uno” does take a little getting used to. The first time someone asks you a question and you find yourself saying, “I think you need to check with Steve (or Bridgit),” you’ll know what I mean.

As I said on Facebook right after Taste Washington this year, and I’ll say it again now, you are a genius. The three most profound and yet concise statements that came from the seminars this year were yours:

Washington wine is “Old World structure and New World fruit”.

“Washington Syrah is what America should be drinking.”

“Consumers have a 2-point system (not a 100-point), Yum or Yuck.”

And our favorite wine at the Grand Tasting was the 2009 Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah.

You are definitely selling at the top of your game, Bob. As I see it the only thing left for you to do is to use the next five years to find and train your successor winemaker, so that the Betz Family Winery legacy will be even stronger in twenty years than it is today.

Best wishes to you and Cathy from all of us at Wine Peeps. I know what wine we’ll be opening tonight.

Cheers,
John

For those who have not yet heard the news, here’s the complete text of the news release:

Betz Family Winery Looks to the Future
Woodinville, April 6, 2011

The Betz Family Winery of Woodinville, Washington, took a major step into the future today as owners Bob and Cathy Betz partnered with veteran wine lovers and entrepreneurs Steve and Bridgit Griessel. The Griessels are purchasing the winery from the Betzes, while retaining the Betzes as part of the winery’s management and operations, with Bob continuing as Winemaker, responsible for making the wines for years to come.

Bob and Cathy Betz established the winery in 1997 after decades of work in the Washington wine industry. Over the past several vintages they built a strong reputation as one of Washington’s, and the US’s, premier producers of Rhone and Bordeaux style red wines.

New owner Steve Griessel explained the partnership: “Bridgit and I have been searching for a high-end, west-coast family winery; Betz Family, with its relationships with prime Washington vineyards, winemaking philosophy, customer service attitude and financial success, is the gem we were looking for. Our plan is to build on the Betz track record of great wine quality as well as on the unique personal style in which they have contributed to the industry over the years. The Betz ‘stamp’ will be apparent throughout the winery well into the future.”

For the Betzes this is the logical next step. “At this stage, I want to focus more time on what originally attracted me to the industry, the vineyards and the cellar, rather than on the daily management of the company. And we want to carve out a little more time for ourselves and our family”, said Bob Betz. “The Griessels not only continue the ‘family’ aspects of the winery but bring enthusiasm and such strong management skills (and a keen passion for wine!) that I can spend my time focused on fruit and wine quality. Not much will actually change here because the Griessel’s participation in our team is additive; if anything, the wines should reflect even greater vineyard precision and character.”

Steve and Bridgit Griessel moved to the US from South Africa 9 years ago, where Steve had started his first business at age 25, and has founded/managed companies in a variety of industries. Bridgit brings a wealth of experience from the IT industry, and owns and manages a successful safari company to southern Africa.


Filed under: American Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine News

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