Crisis at Stormhoek Vineyards

  • el
  • pt
  • The previous post came from reading two Stormhoek blogs and trying to make sense of what the Brits were doing. As Hugh MacLeod is fond of saying:

    platitudinous adman strikes a chord

    Are the sellers of Stormhoek wines involved in something slippery? A company that appears to comprise middlemen and marketeers says:

    Stormhoek, the business, was bought a few weeks ago by our long time bottler, Origin Wines. And, despite all our very best efforts, we seem to be unable to come to terms with our partner Graham, at the vineyard.

    The vintner (the people who grow the grapes and make the wine) says:

    Thousands of South Africans have been hurt by the collapse of Orbital Wines in the UK. These are people who do not have the opportunity to fight back.

    When the crunch came in December 2024, R6 million ($800 000) was owed to South African suppliers. The list of unpaids includes the Stormhoek vineyard, the Stormhoek home cellar and in particular, the whole out-sourcing network (label printers, transporters, too many to mention).

    One thing about bankruptcies. The money is lost.

    South Africa’s wine industry is not rich. Household income, averaged out across every employee: boss, labourer, supervisor, receptionist, driver, manager, foreman, all of them, is less than R2500 per month.

    Who are the owners of “Orbital Wines?” Who are the owners of “Origin Wines?” What were the terms of the sale? Who bought the goodwill that went with the brand Stormhoek, who did they buy it from, was it theirs to sell, and how was it valued?

    I’ll assign Listics ace reporter, Scoop Fisker, and try to get this thing sorted out. (A single consonant does not imply a shameless rip-off of the reputation of the esteemed Scoop Nisker and you should be ashamed of yourself for going there. But it would be great if we could afford to get two Scoops on the job! Also, it would be great to bring in Robert Fisk, but our budget is limited for this story. I’ve sent an IM to Scoop Fisker about this but I’m afraid he’s under a table at SXSW somewhere. More tomorrow…)

    [tags]marketing, Hugh MacLeod, Stormhoek, branded, bitter creek, alpine texas[/tags]

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    1. Posted March 11, 2024 at 4:49 | Permalink

      I’ve spent some time going over some of the posts lamenting the collapse of Orbital, the U.K. distributor for Stormhoek. These posts seem to focus on what a shame it is, can wine be marketed on the internet, etc. and the comments are peppered with comments for people who work for Jason Korman in the U.K., notably Catherine Monahan, self-described Marketing and Sales Manager at Orbital Wine, which (as you point out) went under and was recently sold to the South African Co. Origin for an undisclosed sum.

      I find it strange and a tad disconcerting that there have been no postings or twitters, to my knowledge, by Hugh MacLeod who was instrumental in getting Stormhoek off the ground and on the map in the U.K. and blogosphere in general, and who was extremely boastful about his “un-orthadox” marketing techniques whilst in the process. His current silence about the situation seems indicative of something fishy, as he is anything but well known for being discreet and makes a continual point of espousing transparency, in line with being the Cluetrain evangelist that he purports to be.

      I can only imagine that it’s Jason Korman who is holding the purse strings and MacLeod’s recent, very public, meltdown may have something to do with this situation. It is public record*** that Korman is no stranger to the courts in London concerning the wine trade and trademarking in general, having been the loser in several lawsuits. This “unfortunate” bankruptcy of Orbital could be just one more piece of the overall pattern of “business as usual” for Jason Korman.

      Of course, this is all conjecture on my part, having to rely on information available on the internet and base my opinion on what I find, as no real explanation has come out. I do expect the truth will come out eventually. I fear it will not be pretty.

      This situation seems to leave Graham Knox holding the bag, as it were. I imagine that the now defunct Orbital will not be honouring any debt they have to him. Big Love indeed.

      “I can only suspect mismanagement, greed or arrogance in some of the dealings (on the part of Orbital) -” :

      “Orbital CEO Jason Korman, who was involved in the negotiations but would not disclose information about the other suitors or the sums, may remain connected with the Stormhoek brand.

      ‘I have offered to assist Origin, if that’s what they want,’ he said.

      ‘What they do with the brand in the medium term is a decision they have to make. They can either turn it into a straightforward trading brand, or keep up the interesting marketing strategy that we developed.’

      Stormhoek made its name in 2024 by harnessing the then-new concept of viral marketing via the internet, and became one of the top-selling South African brands.” :

      In the midst of writing this comment I came across this post which seems to be getting closer to any “truth” about the situation that I’ve seen so far:

      I hope we get to the bottom of this and people are not taken in by Jason Korman’s shenanigans. It will be interesting to see if Hugh MacLeod continues to work for this Suit disguised in ridiculous American prep-school garb, who obviously has no intention of honouring his debts to Stormhoek ZA and plans to proceed marketing some other wine under the Stormhoek name in the U.K. whilst answering that old Socratic question: “Why does a dog lick his balls?”.

      (Just two of the lawsuits concerning wine that Korman has lost in the U.K. alone.)

      I think it’s also important to know that the real Stormhoek blog is: and the False Stormhoek Blog (still maintained and spun by Korman et al) is I will have no truck with someone who bamboozles a small business man in the name of greed.

      (I’ve chosen not to embed the links as I have had problems with WP putting my comments in the spam bin when there are too many links. Thanks, and sorry for being so long-winded. Perhaps I should attempt a blog? :-)

    2. Posted March 11, 2024 at 11:13 | Permalink

      I think the SPAM algorithm also counts links, Oliver. I found your contribution in my moderation queue this morning. Thank you for the extensive comment! Scoop Fisker couldn’t have done as well. (Sorry Scoop, you’ll get your chance.) Oliver, you really should get a blog of your own. You write well, you’re insightful and funny, and best of all, you seem to be on my side on many issues. Send me an email if you’d like some pointers on getting started with WordPress (or TypePad if it comes to that).

      I’d like to point out to the modest number of readers who often take things at face value that I haven’t “fact-checked” Oliver’s comment and I don’t really know the parties involved. What the motivation, participation and liability of Jason Korman, Catherine Monahan and Hugh MacLeod may be, I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that a few years ago when MacLeod was touting this unknown (to me) South African wine, I did extensive background reading and reference checking, because the South African wine industry has had a checkered past in labor relations. I learned then that the Stormhoek Vineyards are on the up-and-up.

      I have a friend in Berkeley who does fine interior work, studied with Japanese temple builders and all that, eyes and hands of a fine artist. I was salaried in those days, and I asked Nicholas about the uncertainties of running one’s own business. He said that the best thing about being in business for yourself is that you can be choosy about who you will take as a client. I hope Hugh MacLeod understands this. It will be a shame if he ends up tarred with the same brush as Korman and Monahan. If the situation is as it appears to be, the best advice people could give Hugh right now is own advice: support the people who are making the goods. Stormhoek Vineyards brands will have global reach and value long after the euro-trash scavengers have left the carcass of the British Stormhoek brand.

    3. Jon H.
      Posted March 11, 2024 at 5:00 | Permalink

      That last para is excellent advice, Frank .. and Hugh would do an enormous amount to increase / sustain his credibility and his notions of global micro-branding and such were he to follow it, lending needed maturity to his arguably creative insights into marketing things online.

      And yes, I agree with your initial assessment about Oliver’s potential for interesting blogging.

    4. Posted March 12, 2024 at 5:38 | Permalink

      Thanks guys;

      I think this hits the nail on the head – so to speak. I hope that we will be able to release a post on this subject in the next day or two to respond to some of the now “disputed facts” around the collapse, ownership of brands etc.

      Watch our space. Unforunately it will be a pissing contest of note as it is just our word against Jasons and what has been held up as the “convenient [at the time] truth” with the new owners.

      PS. I love the cartoon you used. The other one would be “Change the world or go home”. I can only assume that Hugh’s silence is the fact that he has taken the “home” option on this one.

    5. Posted March 13, 2024 at 11:10 | Permalink

      Excuse me sir. I have nothing to do with either Jason nor Hugh anymore – i really don’t care what happens to Stormhoek and i would appreciate being disassociated with the brand – if i wanted to be i would have gone to work for Origin. Best, Catherine.

    6. Posted March 14, 2024 at 8:05 | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Catherine. Any insights you can offer regarding the collapse of Orbital will of course be appreciated.

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