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My colleagues refer to a recent eighteen month leave from Christie’s as a professional sabbatical. I like the sound of that. My so-called sabbatical was a departure for my native environs of Southern California. Getting to California at a time of global corporate collapse meant leaving a Christie’s career which began in March of 2001. Upon reflection, my time at Christie’s was bookended by two great tragedies, September 11 and the “Great Financial Collapse.” Somewhere in between all that we managed to inspect, reject and sell a tremendous amount of great wine.
The opportunity for a return to California developed from a fortuitous moment. A client, looking to grow a young internet wine merchant business in 2009, required senior leadership to progress beyond the present staff limitations. So, back to California I went as a VP of Business Development for a Napa-based wine dealer and, after networking with other ex-Christie’s types, I stumbled upon a stellar cache of pristine wine: 50 bottles and 18 magnums of Screaming Eagle. The provenance was perfect, the sale, by choice, not by need. The opportunity was about a relationship and as such respect for the seller’s privacy was vital. Such wines would have to sell on their own merits if they were to find new homes. The risk was reasonable; not exactly an easy task if you want to get your money out in a reasonable amount of time as most healthy businesses want to do.
A decision was made to keep the bottles in-house; in time they would sell. However, after honest reflection the management group recognized the limitations of our clients’ potential when it came to selling the magnums. We needed access to a truly global audience well versed at purchasing $4,800 magnums. This is when I had the bright idea to become a Christie’s client.
Having a position from the other side of the fence gave me a unique perspective on my work. What became clear to me as a merchant is that not all companies can honorably claim to have “expertise” in the field of rare wine. Claiming such expertise includes the ability and ease to cultivate great clientele; clientele who desire the best and have the means to acquire the best wines on offer. Just because you proclaim competence and expertise doesn’t make it so. Having a few individuals focused on such business development isn’t going to cut it. This much about my new role was clear.
Come the day of the Christie’s sale, all nine magnums I had on consignment sold – in one day, $43,000 in two lots - now that’s efficiency! On the day I became a Christie’s client I learned a great many things about this business we share. First and foremost among them is the knowledge that my colleagues can deliver and execute on their expertise.
Scott is out of the wild and based once again in his native California as a Vice President, Senior Wine Specialist in the Americas for Christie’s International Wine Department.