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New blood for wine

By Naomi Mahon

Thursday 17th April 2003

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Villa Maria founder and managing director George Fistonich is on the hunt for a chief executive to bring "new blood" to the wine company's operations.

Once the position has been filled Mr Fistonich will become executive chairman, with chairman Ian Montgomerie becoming deputy chairman.

Advertised locally and internationally, the CEO role involves overseeing the
management of vineyards, viticulture, winemaking, production, sales, restaurant, administration and financial operations.

Mr Fistonich said since the company had expanded he thought he was better suited to an executive chairman's role.

"It's a positive move and will give me more time to sit back and think.

He said the appointment was "in the long-term interest of the company" and would allow him to focus on beefing up exports and managing Villa Maria's individual projects including the new winery and head office site on the Ihumatao Peninsula in Mangere, Auckland. Work began on the $30 million winery in 2001 and the first stage of the project should be completed in April 2004.

Mr Fistonich plans to develop the site into a major Auckland tourist attraction, with stores, a restaurant, five-star accommodation and a terraced concert area for up to 8000 people.

An upgrade of the Esk Valley Winery in Hawke's Bay is also on the agenda, as well as stage three of Villa Maria's $7.5 million state-of-the-art Marlborough winery.

Established in 1961, Villa Maria has grown to become one of the country's major exporters.

Winning a swag of awards, it was also the world's largest wine company to adopt screw caps across all its wines, a move designed to improve quality by eliminating cork taint and the oxidation of wine.

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