WHETHER the Hunter's illustrious Mount Pleasant winery, vineyards and brand and the rest of the McWilliam's wine group is taken over by a private equity firm is expected to be decided on Friday.
The July 24 creditors meeting will vote on a takeover of the 143-year-old McWilliam group by Prcstnt (pronounced "persistent") Asset Management.
The deal, reportedly worth $50 million, has been recommended by KPMG partners Gayle Dickerson, Tim Mableson and Ryan Eagle, who were appointed voluntary administrators of McWilliam's on January 8.
Announcing the Prcstnt proposal this week, Ms Dickerson said it was a "platform for growth" and "a confident step forward" for the McWilliam's company.
"It provides continuing employment for staff and will deliver a substantial return for creditors and possibly shareholders," she said.
The company administrators said under the Prcstnt proposal the return to unsecured creditors was estimated at 94 cents to 100 cents in the dollar.
When it went into voluntary administration, McWilliam's had 150 employees and about 300 creditors, owed almost $40 million.
The executive chairman of Prcstnt, Charles Hunting, said the proposed deal gave Prcstnt a great cornerstone investment in Australian viticulture.
It was critical that McWilliam's be moved out of administration so in the medium and long term Prcstnt could inject further capital to upscale the company in domestic and international markets. McWilliam's is an unlisted publicly owned company with 80 shareholders, many of whom are members of the McWilliam family.
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Among its Riverina assets are the 42,000-tonne-capacity wineries at Hanwood, The Barrel cellar door, 420 hectares of owned and leased vineyard, 55 million litres of wine storage and administration, laboratory, bottling and warehousing facilities.
The Hunter Valley Mount Pleasant subsidiary has a cellar door, an 800-tonne-capacity winery and some of Australia's greatest vineyards like the 32.6 hectares on Marrowbone Rd, Pokolbin, and the 31.1 hectares of Lovedale in Wine Country Drive and the 26.9 hectares of Rosehill in Broke Rd.
Winegrowing in the Mount Pleasant Marrowbone Rd site dates back to 1880, when pioneer settler Charles King planted vines on what is now the treasured Old Hill vineyard.
In 1921 Maurice O'Shea, the cultivated 24-year-old French wine-trained lover of fine food, books, music and art, with a level of wine skills seldom previously seen in Australia, became Mount Pleasant owner.
After McWilliam's took a Mount Pleasant half share in 1932 and full ownership in 1941, O'Shea remained winemaker-manager until he died in 1956. An enlightened McWilliam's management bankrolled O'Shea's gifted winemaking and plantings of the prestigious as Rosehill and Lovedale vineyards helping him make the Mount Pleasant name still ring in the annals of Australian winemaking.
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