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Robert Parker Steps Down as Editor in Chief of Wine Advocate and Sells Stake to Singaporean Investors

Robert Parker has announced on his website www.erobertparker.com that Lisa Perrotti-Brown, who resides in Singapore, is to take over his role as Editor in Chief at The Wine Advocate. He has also sold a substantial interest in TWA to three Singaporean investors. Parker writes that the investors are “30-early 40ish highly qualified business and technology people and enthusiastic wine lovers as well as long time subscribers. They are totally independent of the wine industry and have a very global vision that is essential in today’s world.”

He also plans to open an office in Singapore where the investors reside from which they can more easily service Asian countries. TWA’s office in Monkton, Maryland will continue to remain the headquarters. Lisa Perrotti-Brown will manage the office in Singapore.

The changes are part of Parker’s desire to expand TWA’s coverage in all the world’s wine producing regions and to deliver TWA’s content in the fastest, most efficient way that modern technology permits. New features planned for 2013 are new applications, more videos, a PDF of TWA for electronic subscribers, virtual tastings, and a new program called Icon Wines – all designed to take advantage of a state of the art technology platform and rapid fire response site for subscribers. TWA will also be offering wine education conferences with plans to tour a range of cities around the world.

There have been quite a few responses to Parker’s changes at TWA on the web but my own take on it is that it was a logical and timely move. Singapore has been a mature wine scene for some time and although Hong Kong has become the gateway to the East, Singapore is a cosmopolitan, multicultural island with a strong position as a re-export market. It’s always been a strategic location with links to markets in Malaysia, India, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. 

Most importantly, Parker himself has no plans to retire:

I am still in this profession for the long-term as I remain the CEO and Chairman of the TWA board, and an owner. Moreover, I will continue to comprehensively cover Bordeaux, the Rhone, retrospectives on California vintages, and profiles of under $25 wine bargains from our finest importers.”

Lettie Teague at the Wall Street Journal reports that Parker intends to “phase out the print version of the newsletter” and that TWA will “start accepting advertising, though none that is wine-related”.

Mr. Parker said the print version might disappear before the end of 2013, and that he would offer incentives to print subscribers to make the change to an online-only format.

“Maybe we will offer them Kindles,” he said.”

Teague also reported that Parker said that “the Asian market has come of age in the last decade or so, and it would be unrealistic not to expect to be part of it.” Parker has declined to name his new investors but described them as “young visionaries” in the financial-services and IT fields who had presented him with a plan he couldn’t refuse. Teague says that Parker will become chairman of the new company and that Lisa Perrotti-Brown is planning to hire a new correspondent based in China.

I should point out that some of Teague’s reporting seems to contradict what Parker has said independently – Parker has Tweeted that he is not scrapping the print edition of TWA and that the print edition of TWA “will never take on ads” and that he is looking into non-wine related advertising e.g. investment companies, leisure, BB etc. to appear selectively on the website. Edward Lee at Bloomberg news has confirmed this:

There is no plan to phase out the Wine Advocate print edition,” Parker said. “We will make available a PDF version of the print edition for those who wish to view it electronically.”

Lee also reports that any advertising on TWA would “only appear on a bulletin board on the company’s website, not within the publication itself.”

Doubtless more news about the big changes at TWA will hit the headlines as more information is released. Given how great Parker’s influence is on setting prices for top flight Bordeaux, TWAs expansion into Asia will benefit the Bordeaux wine region exponentially by creating a new platform for a developing market that is keen to learn about wine. We may not like the fact that a high score from Parker dictates the price of certain wines but it is a fact we have to live with – for now.

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