business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • Albertsons reportedly has decided to rebrand all its in-store Colorado pharmacies under the Sav-On brand, a move that will affect the 44 supermarkets there that have pharmacies.

  • French retailer Auchan reportedly is getting out of Argentina, and is negotiating to sell its operations there to BTP San Jose, a Spanish company.

    According to a statement from BTP, “the two groups are negotiating on the usage of the Auchan brand throughout the Americas.” Whatever that means.

    Auchan did have a store in Texas some years ago, at about the same time as Carrefour had a unit in Philadelphia and Le Clerc had one in the Baltimore area, but none of the three French companies were able to crack the code of American consumer shopping habits.

  • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that shareholders in the Robert Mondavi Corp. approved a $1 billion buyout of the company by New York-based Constellation Brands. The approval ends almost four decades of family control of the winery business that changed the definition and quality of California wines.

    Management at Constellation told the WSJ that they do not plan to sell off any of the company’s assets.

KC's View:
We’ve told this story before, but it is worth repeating.

We met Michael Mondavi once, when he was signing wine bottles and chatting up customers at one of Stew Leonard’s tremendously successful wine shops. We mentioned to him that we’d taken the family to California on vacation the year before, and had gone on the tour of the fabulous Mondavi winery.

He asked how we’d liked it, and we told him that amazingly, our then 10-year-old son had really enjoyed it; we’ve always allowed him to have a sip of wine from our glass, and he was very interested in the process of making wine. (We’re hoping to spend our retirement writing novels while living in a guesthouse and running the tasting room at our son’s vineyard…but that’s another story,) The only disappointment was that our 10-year-old hasn’t been allowed to taste anything in the tasting room. Mondavi said that this was a mistake, that he could have tasted anything we wanted to as long as he drank from our glass, and he said he’d mention this to the tasting room staff.

Then, he asked when our son had been born. We told him: 1989. A few weeks later, a bottle of Mondavi 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon showed up at the house, personally inscribed by Michael Mondavi to Brian, telling him that this was something he should save until he was legally able to drink it.

That bottle sits in our wine rack today, and will sit in Brian’s someday. It was a remarkable thing for Mondavi to do, and we mourn with him today the loss of family control of this remarkable brand.