Wine E-tailers To Merge

Online wine retailers Wine.com and WineShopper.com announced Tuesday that they will merge and operate a redesigned site at the Wine.com address.

Bill Newlands, president and chief executive officer of Wine.com, will serve as CEO of the new company. Hank Lambert, president and chief operating officer of WineShopper.com, will retain those titles, and Wine.com founder Peter Granoff will continue as chief wine merchant.

“We look forward to continuing our business relationships with existing partners and developing new opportunities in the $100 billion (US$) worldwide wine market,” Newlands said.

Launch Set for 2001

The plan is to work on building traffic and sales at the existing Wine.com Web site for the remainder of this year and use the Wineshopper.com link to combine the best features of the two existing sites for launch next year.

“Each company’s strengths dovetail beautifully with one another,” said WineShopper.com founder Peter Sisson, who will be vice chairman and chief strategy officer of the merged business. “The new company will combine the best of both into a single category leader that can focus its resources on growing the wine market.”

The merger will bring together a formidable roster of big name partnerships, including Amazon.com, WallStreetJournal.com, Wine Spectator, The New York Times on the Web, WineToday.com, Food & Wine, Saveur, Wine & Spirits and Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine.

The Old and the New

Wine.com began in 1994 in Napa, California, and took off early as a big player in e-commerce. In November, Wine.com announced it raised more than $50 million from a group led by TH Lee.Putnam Internet Partners, boosting capital investment in the company to more than $80 million over a six month period.

WineShopper opened its virtual doors last spring with help from a $30 million investment from Amazon.

Legal Complexities

Selling wine online can be more complicated than selling sneakers or books because of the myriad laws and regulations governing the sale of spirits. However, the new company said it will continue to partner with wine producers, wholesalers and retailers to fulfill wine orders in compliance with the laws that govern the three-tier distribution system.

By the end of 2000, the company hopes to be licensed to sell wine in 44 U.S. states.

Juanita Duggan, CEO and executive vice president of industry trade organization Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, said, “The WSWA remains committed to a legal solution to Internet sales and we are very pleased this new venture is similarly committed.”

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