Casella vows brand is enough to weather financial storm

THE head of Casella Wines has vowed to keep the winery in the family name despite speculation a public listing could solve the company's cash flow woes.

Casella Wines boss John Casella has vehemently rejected the options of floating the company or taking on an equity partner after the Yenda winery last year reported its first loss in 20 years.

The National Australia Bank had set a deadline of today for the company to outline options to generate revenue, sparking speculation that a foray into the stock market was on the cards.

But Mr Casella said the strongest wine producers in the business were those that had remained family-owned something he was determined to maintain.

"It's definitely not a possibility and you really wouldn't float at the worst time anyway," Mr Casella said.

"There's just no need or reason they are options but we don't need to entertain those options.

"When you look at wine companies, the family companies like De Bortoli, McWilliams, Yalumba - they're the ones that have remained the strongest."

The strength of the Australian dollar slashing profits in the US has been blamed for Casella's $29 million loss last year, but Mr Casella was determined he could "see this through".

"We want to stay local and stay family-oriented, that is our long term plan and our best endeavour is to stay that way," he said.

"We have a very good brand with a good name, we have good employee support and good industry support - this is just the current situation and I believe we are strong enough to take these sorts of situations and keep moving."

Talks with bankers over the restructuring of a long-held lending agreement had progressed smoothly in the lead-up to today's deadline, Mr Casella said, and reports about the dire financial position of the company had been "blown out of proportion".

While many publicly-owned companies have come and gone in Griffith, those that have stayed in the family had shown the greatest resilience, Westend Estate managing director Bill Calabria said.

Cranswick, Saxonvale, Southcorp and Evans and Tate were just some of the companies that established themselves in Griffith during the good times, but were later forced to close.

"When you look at it, in Griffith it is mainly the family-owned wineries that have survived," Mr Calabria said.

"They are determined to fight through the good times and the bad, they know how important it is to do the right thing by the region and by their community.

"It is very important that wine families continue doing what they're doing."

Casella Wines boss John Casella

Casella Wines boss John Casella


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