Influential US wine critic Robert Parker is moving the headquarters of his newsletter to Singapore after selling a major stake to investors based in the city-state, a report said on Tuesday.
Parker told the Wall Street Journal he intends to step down as editor-in-chief of The Wine Advocate and phase out its print edition, giving oversight to his Singapore-based Asia correspondent, Lisa Perrotti-Brown.
“The Asian market has come of age in the last decade or so, and it would be unrealistic not to expect to be part of it,” he said.
He declined to name his new investors but described them as “young visionaries” in financial services and information technology based in Singapore who presented him with a plan he could not refuse, according to the report.
“They love wine, but they also saw a great business opportunity,” said Parker, who said he would become chairman of the new company and continue to review the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone for the newsletter.
Despite having only 50,000 subscribers paying US$75 (HK$581) a year for six issues, most of them living in the United States, the Wine Advocate can make or break a winemaker with reviews based on a 50-100 point quality grading system.
Parker said the Wine Advocate’s print version might disappear before the end of 2013, and he would offer incentives to print subscribers to make the change to an online-only format.
“Maybe we will offer them Kindles,” he said.
The company’s current office is next to Parker’s home in Maryland farm country. Singapore is a Southeast Asian financial centre with close business and cultural links to China.
The new investors are planning an abbreviated Southeast Asian edition aimed at corporate clients, such as airlines and luxury hotels, the report said, and the main newsletter will also put more emphasis on Asia’s nascent wine industry.
Perrotti-Brown, who also writes for an online Wine Advocate offshoot called erobertparker.com, plans to hire a new correspondent likely to be based in China.
“The correspondent will cover wines produced in China, Thailand and other Asian countries,” she was quoted as saying.
“We envisage eventually allowing some advertising, but only from sponsors where there is absolutely no conflict of interest,” said Perrotti-Brown.
No winery or wine-related business would be allowed to advertise but luxury watches or credit card brands would be acceptable, the report said.
Organisers of Asia’s biggest wine and spirits fair Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, held in Hong Kong in May, said China leapt to fifth place among top wine-consuming nations last year, overtaking Britain.
Asia was expected to account for more than half of worldwide growth in consumption over the next three years, they added.