by Jon Lewin on March 27, 2012
Last month, Mark Driver left behind $774 million in assets under management at Horseman Capital Management, where he was a founding partner. It wasn’t a competing firm that managed to drag him away from his desk, but a desire to pursue his passion–and an astute market assessment. According to Bloomberg, Driver began planting his vineyard Sunday on 600 acres in Rathfinny on the coast of England.
“I’ve always loved wine but this is a commercial operation, not a vanity project,” Driver said. He projects the business to become profitable in 2017 on a cash-flow basis and hopes that by 2020 he can begin repaying some of the investment in the vineyard. He’s observed that global warming will have a positive effect on the potential for English wines.
Mark Cesareo, the onetime sommelier and now manager of London’s Gilbert Scott restaurant, says that combined sales of English sparkling wine by the glass were higher than sales of the house champagne.
“The future for England lies in sparkling wines: That’s where the exciting stuff is coming,” Cesareo said. In 2011, sales of U.K. wine by value rose to 26 million pounds, a 45% increase from the previous year.
Driver says his goal is to make nearly 1 million bottles per year and sell them for between 25 and 28 pounds apiece, which would make his yearly sales about what the entire U.K. wine industry is now.
At Rathfinny, all one hears is seagulls and you only get a Blackberry signal by going up a hill. It’s a far cry from the office life Driver left behind.
“Why sit in front of a computer screen for the rest of your life watching prices go up and down when watching grapes grow is so much less stressful?” Driver said.
Jon Lewin is a Feature Writer for the Compliance Exchange and Wall Street Job Report. He is also a columnist for the Faster Times and a blogger for Subway Squawkers. Lewin’s work has appeared in the New York Daily News, Huffington Post and Digital Innovation Gazette as well as the “Cambridge Companion to Baseball” and the Daily News history essay collection “Big Town Big Time.”