In today’s Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague has some huge news about the future of the Wine Advocate.
Robert Parker has decided to sell “a ‘substantial interest’ in the Wine Advocate to a trio of Singapore-based investors.”
Even more shockingly, he “intends to step down as its editor in chief, turning over editorial oversight to his Singapore-based correspondent, Lisa Perrotti-Brown.”
As Felix Salmon wrote this morning, “nothing about this deal makes any sense.”
First, there have been countless assurances from Parker that he had no intention of making such a move. Just last month, Parker assured Teague that he had no plans to sell the newsletter, “in part because he would not relinquish editorial control.”
Then, there’s the news that the Wine Advocate “will start accepting advertising, though none that is wine-related.” This, of course, runs counter to the Wine Advocate’s official “Ethics and Standards,” which includes the following lines:
“Even more important is to refuse all advertising – from any source. This guarantees total independence. The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker.com are 100% subscriber funded and supported. We do not permit any advertising.”
Just as shocking is the casual aside from Teague that the Wine Advocate will begin “[producing] tasting events, another focus of the new Wine Advocate.”
When Antonio Galloni hosted a tasting of Solaia at Eleven Madison Park, it caused quite a kerfuffle, as many analysts believed it ran counter to the Wine Advocate’s pledge to keep an “independent stance” from producers.
That “independent stance” could now be out the window. As Felix Salmon wrote this morning:
“As for tasting events, you can’t run those without having a business relationship with winemakers. Perrotti-Brown tells Teague that “no winery or wine-related business will be allowed to advertise,” but there’s not really any need for them to advertise, if they can simply underwrite a grand wine-tasting event instead. Having your wines featured at a Wine Advocate tasting event is the best marketing any winery can hope for, and they will be very willing to pay top dollar for the privilege.”
Another surprise is the comment, from Lisa Perrotti-Brown, that the newsletter wants “more control over the reviews.”
Does this mean the Wine Advocate will veto, change, or otherwise influence the scores of its supposedly independent critics?
Parker hasn’t released the name of the investors, only describing them on the eRobertParker.com message board as “three 30-early 40ish highly qualified business and technology people and enthusiastic wine lovers as well as long time subscribers.”
Absent from Teague’s article is any commentary from (or about) Antonio Galloni, who had looked to be Parker’s heir apparent.
The discussion is just beginning, of course. But it’s sure to be fascinating.