China-based wine importer and distributor ASC has announced that John Watkins will take over as CEO from Don St. Pierre Jr, who will become executive chairman:
The board of ASC Fine Wines announced today that Don St. Pierre Jr., Co-founder and CEO has been appointed Executive Chairman of the Board and John D. Watkins has been appointed to succeed St. Pierre as the Chief Executive Officer. The change is effective October 15, 2012.
As Executive Chairman of the Board, St. Pierre will remain heavily involved in the business…
Watkins has more than twenty-five years of success in China…. [He] is also an avid wine enthusiast, was ASC’s first home delivery customer and has known the St. Pierre family since the 1980’s.
Watkins’ last position was as CEO of GE AVIC Civil Avionics Systems and he has held senior positions in China with Cummins, Cummins (China) Investment and Northwest Airlines. This will be his first job in the wine industry.
ASC, which includes over 1,000 labels from 100 wineries in its portfolio, has been among the highest profile — if not the highest — wine companies in China while solidifying its position as an industry leader. In the past five years, it has gained attention for everything from a sales share to Suntory to hosting the first China visit of critic Robert Parker to funding translation of The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson to a China Customs investigation.
Looking ahead, St. Pierre said in an email tonight that the three biggest challenges for wine distributors are “hiring, training and managing people“, “competing against unprofessional import and distribution companies who smuggle and or misrepresent the wines they import”, and “dealing with inefficient distribution channels.”