10/09/2008 - 22:00

Tate's grape expectations

10/09/2008 - 22:00

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FORMER executive chairman of the failed winemaker Evans & Tate, Franklin Tate, questioned continuing his career in the wine business when he stopped running the company in 2005.

Tate's grape expectations

FORMER executive chairman of the failed winemaker Evans & Tate, Franklin Tate, questioned continuing his career in the wine business when he stopped running the company in 2005.

Mr Tate stepped away down from his role of executive chairman of Evans & Tate in 2005 after 30 years running the company, before later resigning from the board in August 2007.

"I thought about doing a couple of other things, I contemplated very briefly going into the automotive industry, I thought about that for a while. I thought a lot more about going into the funeral industry which is continuing to expand dramatically, and provides much more than burying people," Mr Tate said.

"The scope of opportunity I thought was interesting, but at the end of the day I've never been a funeral director, I've never been a marketer of automobiles but I have been involved in wines for a pretty long time," he said.

"I always enjoyed being in wine so that was the obvious choice."

"I think people respect you more if you're honest with them by saying this is what I love doing and I do it well."

Mr Tate started a wine distribution business five months ago, Grape Expectations, and said he believed entrepreneurs can get a second chance in WA and gain respect for taking the opportunity.

"The great thing about WA is that the people here accept that people's stars rise and fall, and rise again," Mr Tate told WA Business News.

"Australia's richest man, Andrew Forrest, who I sat in school with, he has had his successes and less successes, yet he totally justified it and received enormous respect in this community and had the opportunity to have another go in the resource industry," he said.

"That is a profoundly positive characteristic about WA."

Grape Expectations imports boutique wines and targets individual restaurants and independent retailers.

Mr Tate retained the lease of two of the Evans & Tate vineyards, which he uses now to produce his own boutique wine range, Miles From Nowhere.

Mr Tate said the main hurdle about starting from scratch in the wine industry was simply, starting from scratch.

He said he enjoyed strong support from the industry despite the bad press he received regarding the Evans & Tate collapse for the past three years.

"A lot of people try to always abbreviate by saying, this happened, there's him, he must have done it," Mr Tate said.

"I built the business [E&T], I was involved in the business since it started from 1969 to 2005 and every year I was involved it turned out to be a very successful company employing 350 people in nine different locations across the world. That's my track record," he said.

E&T was put into administration by its largest creditor, ANZ, after two years of restructuring, asset sales and management upheaval failed to extinguish its ballooning $100 million debt.

"When I was there, we only had a bit too much inventory, we disclosed that. Were we the only wine company in Australia with too much stock? Of course not," Mr Tate said.

"If I really was as absolutely profoundly hopeless, incompetent, stupid and all these other adjectives that have been given to me, why in a period of five months has our new business done so well?" he said.

"In Perth, people have a personal engagement with each other, these are nice things, more important than a sheer matter of money.

"Ok, I certainly had the opportunity to run a larger business, but I would prefer spending the rest of my career in something which is small and personal."

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