Rowan Gormley, the CEO of UK company Naked Wines, will be retiring from the company once Christmas trading is over. Nick Devlin, the current Chief Operating Officer, will take his place.
“I am delighted to welcome Nick Devlin as CEO designate,” said Gormley in a statement. “This is the conclusion of a two-year long process, to configure Naked to be able to fulfil its potential.”
Two new leadership roles have also been created, to develop strategic partnerships in the US and winemaker relationships worldwide.
In the statement, Gormley made it clear that he sees Naked as having a huge opportunity in the US. “The market is huge, growing and highly profitable,” he said. “The online direct-to-consumer segment is under-penetrated in comparison with other categories, suggesting significant untapped demand. The Naked model is uniquely configured to take advantage of it.”
In order to do this, Gormley said that Naked will become a “pure play online subscription wine retailer”.
Naked Wines, an online retailer, was founded by Rowan Gormley in December 2008. It called its customers “Angels” who funded winemakers around the world, in return for wines said to be sold at wholesale prices; this was a difficult claim to challenge, however, as most of the wines were never sold at retail.
“I got booted out of Virgin Wines in June 2008,” he explained to Meininger’s Robert Joseph in 2015. “A bunch of other people said they wanted to leave as well, so we just set up a new wine company, and then the world ended, with financial institutions like Lehman Brothers going bust.”
The impact of the global financial crisis, he said, meant their approach had to be radical. “We couldn’t just be a slightly better version of Virgin Wines. We couldn’t go and screw suppliers financially any further because they were already fully screwed so we had to do the opposite, which was to help them.” What suppliers needed the most in 2008 was money – which they didn’t have. “Who could we get the money from? It had to be our customers.”
Naked was named Online Business of the Year at the UK’s National Business Awards in 2011 and it bought the Majestic chain of wine stores in 2015. Earlier this year, Majestic revealed plans to rebrand as Naked Wines, and close stores; by August, the Financial Times was reporting that Majestic had agreed to sell its retail stores to Fortress Investment Group, for £95m ($122m).
“It has been a huge honour to lead Naked from a scrappy start-up ten years ago, to an international retailer, with hundreds of thousands of customers, the most delightful team of passionate people anyone could hope to work with, and the proven ability to deliver value for shareholders,” said Gormley in the statement. “Not at the expense of customers, but to the benefit of customers, suppliers and staff.”
Gormley says he will remain a significant shareholder.