MANY are shocked by the Wall Street Journal reporting that Robert M. Parker, who popularized his now-ubiquitous 100-point rating system and changed the nature of the wine business, is stepping down from his role as editor-in-chief at The Wine Advocate, the vastly influential wine-review publication he started in 1978…I wonder why……
Could it have anything to do with the scandal exposed by my friend Jim Budd?
As Felix Salmon wrote for Reuters:
Nothing about this deal makes any sense, on its face. The new owners are going to start accepting advertising — something which makes sense financially, since those 50,000 subscribers tend to be extremely well-heeled. But at the same time, they’re scrapping the print version of the newsletter, despite the fact that (a) it’s profitable, and (b) they would surely be able to charge much higher rates for print ads than for online ads.
Robert Parker’s reported investor has close ties to fine wine merchant in Singapore…
- Friday 21 December 2012
Soo Hoo Khoon Peng, the Singapore-based Malaysian businessman reported to have bought Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, still has close ties with the fine wine retailer Hermitage Wine, Decanter.com has learned.
Soo Hoo pictured in Singapore in 2011
Soo Hoo’s wife Josephine Ng Choo Ping is a senior director of Hermitage Wine, the company Soo Hoo founded and has since left. She is also listed as the majority shareholder of the company.
On 13 December Decanter.com reported that Soo Hoo Khoon Peng is the main shareholder in the syndicate that has invested in Wine Advocate.
As of 26 November 2012 Soo Hoo himself is also listed as a majority shareholder of Hermitage Wine, although he has recently left the company.
Ms Ng Choo Ping confirmed to Decanter.com that she ‘is and will continue to be a director of Hermitage Wine.’
Asked if she could comment on any possible conflict of interest between her husband’s holdings in Wine Advocate, and her directorship of Hermitage Wine, she said any such questions would have to be put to Wine Advocate, and declined to comment further.
Their Dec 2012 Wine List includes:
Chateau ANGELUS GRAND CRU
Chateau LAFITE ROTHSCHILD FIRST GROWTH
COPPOLA DIRECTOR’S CUT PINOT NOIR
SHAFER HILLSIDE SELECT CABERNET SAUVIGNON
OPUS ONE 1980 IMPERIAL 1980 1996 2008 1986 1982
Neither Wine Advocate nor Robert Parker have responded to requests to comment.
Hermitage Wine is a Singapore retailer which also offers wine investments and wine futures, particularly Bordeaux. Its website says ‘Many wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone are sold en primeur’.
It adds, ‘Experienced merchants will make an offer based on their judgment of quality. Prices may change based on factors like demand, supply and Parker ratings.’
In terms of its investment arm, Hermitage says, ‘Wine investing has existed for hundreds of years. Records made over the past 300 years demonstrate that fine wine is one of the most stable, high-yielding, low-risk investments in the world. Wine prices are unaffected by general elections, stock market fluctuations, inflation or changes in interest rates.’
Although callers to Hermitage Wine are informed that Mr Soo Hoo ‘has just left the company’, records with Singapore business authorities, which were seen by Decanter.com on 17 December 2012 list him as the second largest shareholder in Hermitage Wine.
Registered in March 2009, the private limited company was first incorporated in May 2006 as Ermitage Private Limited.
Hermitage Wine has paid up capital of SG$1,489,276 against 1,400,000 shares spread between nine people.
According to official records Soo Hoo has the second largest stake with 533820 ordinary shares. Josephine Ng Choo Ping is the largest shareholder with 547820 shares.
Together – according to the official records – the couple controls 73% of Hermitage Wine. It doe not take a genius to see there may be a potential conflict of interest here..
The plot thickens…
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While Mr. Soo’s company (or ex-company, depending on which account you read], Hermitage Wines, is usually described as a “fine wine retailer,” it’s virtually impossible, especially for a western reporter, to find out much about it. We do know that Hermitage is, or was, the distributor of Francis Ford Coppola’s wines in Singapore. Other than that, the company has an extraordinairly thin presence on the Internet. The online site, exporters.sg , which profiles international exporters, reports no reviews, bank information or anything else on Hermitage. Another site, which lists companies registered in the U.K. [as is Hermitage Wines], was able to find no information, beyond standard incorporation and other dates. Mr. Soo at one time apparently had a Facebook page , but it no longer exists.
It is all very mysterious…and the new owners of the Wine Advocate have clearly stated that they are going in a direction that Robert Parker was totally against since the beginning…