American billionaire Bill Foley may add to his wine interests in the Wairarapa region with the acquisition of pinot noir pioneer Martinborough Vineyard Estates.
Foley, through NZAX-listed Foley Family Wines [NZAX: FFW], hasn't yet gone through the due diligence process and isn't at the stage of agreeing a price for the Martinborough vineyard, said chief executive Mark Turnbull. The parties are aiming to complete the transaction by March 31.
The business would add to the Te Kairanga Wines company, just down the road in the town of Martinborough that Foley acquired in 2011. Foley has been expanding his wine interests while building what Turnbull has called a vertical integration strategy which has included taking a 24.9 percent stake in celebrity chef Simon Gault's Nourish Group restaurant chain.
Martinborough Vineyard describes itself as a trailblazer in pinot noir in the southern Wairarapa, establishing its first vines in 1980 and helping build the region's reputation for producing the notoriously fickle variety.
Foley Family stock was last at $1.70 and has gained 48 percent in the past year, outpacing the NZX 50 Index's 15 percent gain.
Foley is following the pattern he mapped out in the US where he owns vineyards and interests in about 700 restaurants. His New Zealand holding company owns 80 percent of NZAX listed Foley Family Wines and a half stake in distributor EuroVintage. He also owns the luxury Wharekauhau lodge in the Wairarapa.