Tom Ludt, president of Vinery Ltd., took some time on the eve of the Keeneland September yearling sale to discuss the recent announcement that all of the farm's North American assets are for sale in a package deal. The decision to put the operation on the market was made by the family of owner Dr. Tommy Simon of Germany and based on the fact that none of the family members currently lives in the United States. “The horse business is passion-driven,” Ludt said, “and the passion is just not there any more.”
At the time of the Aug. 28 announcement, Ludt said Simon would consider maintaining a minority position and stressed that the intention to sell is not based on financial need. “It's not a fire sale,” he said.
Simon acquired the North American division of Vinery in 1999 with the purchase of the 440-acre farm in Kentucky. In moved into Florida in 2004 with the purchase and development of 220 acres in Summerfield, a property that now includes dirt and turf tracks and state-of-the-art rehabilitation facilities. In late 2010, Vinery expanded into New York and is now based at the former Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag. Simon maintains a minority interest in Vinery Australia in the Hunter Valley.
Sixteen stallions stand at the three farms: Congrats, Kodiak Kowboy, More Than Ready, Pioneerof the Nile, Purse Prize, and Street Hero in Kentucky; Bluegrass Cat, D'Funnybone, Frost Giant, Giant Surprise, and Posse in New York; and Backtalk, Benny the Bull, Kantharos, Maimonides, and Pomeroy in Florida.
What exactly is being offered in the sale of the North American division of Vinery?
Dr. Simon wants to sell the business and the package includes: the Kentucky farm, the Florida farm, the New York lease we hold on Sugar Maple Farm, all stallion shares and his entire horse holdings.
Will the farm move or sell the stallions standing at Vinery's different divisions in separate packages before the 2013 breeding season?
No. The sale is all-inclusive with the land/lease and other horse assets. We plan to continue on in 2013 as we have since Dr. Simon first purchased the farm. We will continue to do business the way we always have until a buyer comes along.
Have the Simons contracted with a broker to market these assets?
All interested parties will work directly with me. This will be a private transaction.
Is there a specific timeline they have in mind?
This is the best question you could ask. This has nothing to do with a timeline and everything to do with the Simon family's decision to sell the business. The operation will continue on and there are no deadlines or time frames in which to find a new buyer. We will continue to grow the business until that time comes.
In the meantime, will the farm's services – including the stallion division – be marketed as in the past?
Everything will remain the same and we plan to continue to grow and, yes, we will continue to market our products and services.
Will any of Vinery's own breeding stock be offered in mixed sales this fall?
Our sales division is thriving and it will continue to do so, and we do sell some of our yearlings and mares each year.
What have employees been told as far as their futures are concerned?
Nothing will change for 2013 and we hope to see a new owner or some partners that want to keep the current infrastructure. We have a great team of talented employees and they would be an asset to anyone's organization.
Though recent years have been tough for anyone in the industry, can potential buyers look at this as a profitable venture?
The Vinery operation has made vast investments in the industry and has maintained long-range planning and it has proved to be successful and profitable.
If you were the salesman, what elements of the Vinery package would be the most appealing to a potential buyer?
1) Keeping the current staff to continue to run a quality operation;
2) The name Vinery is already branded on an international and regional basis;
3) We have vast services provided to our clients: breeding, boarding, training, consulting, portfolio management, and rehabilitation;
4) Vinery's package would be most appealing to any investor looking for a turn-key operation.
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