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Issue 40 - Whisky'sowngrandnational?

Whisky Magazine Issue 40
June 2004

 

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Whisky'sowngrandnational?

IanBankier'sdreamistogivewhiskyloversanationalretailchainoftheirown.GavinDSmithspoketotheformerBurnStewartboss

InFebruaryofthisyearIanBankierbecametheproudowneroftheWhiskyShop,andtheformerBurnStewartbosshasambitiousplansforhisretailchain.

BankierwasborninGlasgowandeducatedatEdinburghUniversitywherehereadlaw.Hesubsequentlyreturnedtohisnativecitytopractice,specialisingincorporatelaw,andbecomingapartnerintheleadingfirmofMcGrigorDonald.

“By1992/93IfeltI'dgoneasfarasIthoughtIcouldgointhatparticularfield,”hesays,“andIwentintoindustry.Istartedmyownindependentmanagementcompany,andoneofourclientswasBurnStewartDistillers.AcoupleofyearslaterIwasaskedtobecomegroupmanagingdirectorofBurnStewart,anditseemedagoodmove,soIaccepted.”

BurnStewartownedDeanstondistilleryinPerthshire,alongwithTobermoryontheIsleofMull,andBankierdescribeshisearlydayswiththecompanyas“abitofawhiteknuckleride.”MuchofBurnStewart'sbusinesswasinthesupplyofwhiskyforsupermarket‘own-label'blends,apartoftheindustrybedevilledbylowmargins.

“Buyingmarketshare,sellingwhiskycheaplytothesupermarkets,canbetheroadtoruin,”assertsBankier.“Youhavetofocusonwhatworksandbebrave.Whatworkedinthiscasewastosellatadecentmargin.Wefocusedonqualitybrands,onourbrandportfolio.”

TurningBurnStewartaroundfinanciallywaslargelyduetoBankier'svisionandcommitment,andthefuturelookedrosywheninDecember2002thecompanywasthesubjectofa£50mtakeoverbyCaribbeanconglomerateCLFinancial.

Bankierwasappointedchiefexecutiveofthenewholdingcompany,andoversawthepurchaseoftheCognachouseofThomasHine&Co,aswellastheIslaydistilleryofBunnahabhain,andtheassociated...

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