The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

New CEO for Villa Maria

Villa Maria Estate has announced the appointment of Abe Salt as Chief Executive Officer. Salt will take over from Sir George Fistonich who has spent 55 years at the helm. Fistonich will continue to have a hands-on role in the company as Founder & President.  Salt will report to Sir George and will commence as CEO on March 5, 2018.

“Due to Villa Maria’s success as a major player globally, my ambassador role has become extremely time consuming,” says Sir George Fistonich. “As the CEO, Abe will be able to manage the important day to day operations and strategic priorities for the company. This will allow me to concentrate on my global brand ambassadorial role and drive other large projects such as the development of our new winery and retail centre in Hawkes Bay.”

Salt is an avid wine enthusiast and is passionate about the wine industry. He has undertaken wine education courses with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and University of Adelaide and has also participated in a wide range of social wine education programmes, such as International Chardonnay and Pinot Masterclasses.

Salt joins Villa Maria with 15 years’ experience across the wine industry, investment banking and strategic advisory. Most recently, he was Principal at Iron Gate Consulting where he focused on providing strategic advice to the wine industry.

Prior to Iron Gate Consulting, Salt spent more than five years at Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) where he was Global Head of Strategy. During his time at TWE, he led significant transactions and implemented key strategic changes for the business. He served on the Steering Committee for TWE’s global supply chain optimisation programme, driving route to market changes in key regions. Salt was also responsible for delivering TWE’s annual five-year plan, including sales and marketing plans by brand and region. In New Zealand, he led TWE’s acquisition of its Matua Marlborough winery.

Salt has experience in each of Villa Maria’s key export markets including the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Asia and Australia. He also has experience working with luxury brands, such as Penfolds.

He holds degrees in Law and Commerce and post-graduate qualifications in finance and is married with two children. Salt will relocate from Melbourne to Auckland for the role.

“I am delighted that we have found someone with such a passion for wine together with a wealth of experience in FMCG global strategy,” says Fistonich. “We are thrilled to have Abe join us for Villa Maria’s next chapter and help us build on our successes to date.”

Villa Maria exports to more than 60 countries globally and in 2017 it was ranked fourth most admired wine brand in the world by Drinks International, the only New Zealand winery to make the top 5 list.