Vernon Davis joins Winecorp SA

Thursday, 5 February, 2004
Arnold Kirkby
Movers and shakers
There is never a good time to resign, is how outgoing KWV International MD, Vernon Davis, views his sudden departure from the company on Tuesday.

He is, however, upbeat about his move to competitor – WineCorp SA (Pty) Ltd – with immediate effect. He takes with him his financial director, Gerhard de Kock, who becomes Chief Financial Officer at the Stellenbosch-based outfit.

A number of staffers at KWV head office on Main Street said the move had come as a total surprise, but Davis said he had been in discussion with KWV Limited Group MD, Dr Willem Barnard, and other members of the board.

KWV spokesman, Albert Eksteen, said Barnard would be handling Davis’ post until such time that a replacement is appointed. He said that process would get underway in time and that care would be taken in making the key appointment.

In an interview shortly after the announcement was made Davis gave some insights into his decision and the time he spent at KWV International.

He joined KWV International in 1996, when the mother company was in the throes of transforming from a co-operative to a commercial company. In 1998 he was promoted to MD.

‘I was appointed to do a job and I feel that I have done that and I know there is never a good time to resign, but this is an opportunity which has come my way. Working in that scenario is one of the nicest canvasses to work with in the industry.

‘I will be based at Spier, which is one of the most beautiful places in the winelands. There is a great deal being done for tourism and development in the industry. It also has brands with huge potential, which I look forward to developing with the rest of the team there.

‘We will begin with an audit of the company’s strengths and weaknesses. I have already discussed with the WineCorp board about getting the company on a steady footing, work out a strategy, put a business plan in place and make it happen.

‘Gerhard and I worked well as a team in Paarl and when I discussed leaving with him, he said if there was a position open for him he would like to join me.

‘I have also had a brief meeting with the rest of the executive team and they are all young, dynamic and very capable. My predecessors, each in his own way, left me with good tools to work with, now we must just put it together.’

‘We also have a good portfolio of wines and there is a need now to focus on marketing and improving the range.

‘Besides these challenges, I have also been offered the opportunity to buy shares in the company. It will be great to be able to own a part of the company when I retire at 60, which is in five years time.

‘I will also be able to spend time with my wife considering all the time she has given up for me over the years.’

About his time at KWV International, Davis said there were a number of highlights of which he was proud to be a part. This started with the putting together a marketing strategy and brand plan and the architecture to implement it in various export markets.

He said turning ECS around and having it make a small profit, as well as establishing subsidiary 57 Main Street in the USA was also pleasing.

‘I think that developing a top class wine such as Perold and the Imoya Brandy, both of which have the potential to succeed in the USA, were great innovations.

‘The most pleasing accomplishment I think was developing Golden Kaan joint venture with the Racke company from Germany. It was their first JV and we researched each facet of the range thoroughly to ensure that it was tailored to what the consumer wanted.

‘As a 50-50 partnership it has worked extremely well, with more than 100 000 cases being sold since it was launched in Germany last March. It is now exported to among others, Holland, the UK, the USA, Canada, Reunion and Racke also has contacts in Eastern Europe. That to me was the pinnacle of my time at KWV International,’ he said, closing a chapter of his life.