Robert Mondavi Corp. branched out from its family tree Friday when it named the first non-family member to head the largest publicly traded California wine company.
The Oakville-based winery named former McKinsey & Co. management consultant Ted Hall, who joined the Mondavi board a month ago, as its nonexecutive chairman.
He replaces Michael Mondavi, who will become vice chairman and take on the role of the company’s chief salesman.
“Personally, I look forward to spending even more time in the marketplace with our key distributors, retailers and restaurateurs,” said Mondavi, whose father founded the company in 1966.
With annual sales of $450 million, Mondavi is one of the most prominent names in the wine business, selling brands from $5 table wine to $125-a-bottle reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hall, who runs Long Meadow Ranch Winery in Napa, was named to the board in December when Robert Mondavi, the company’s 90-year-old founder and patriarch, gave up his seat while retaining the title of chairman emeritus.
Hall’s appointment to chairman was applauded by some analysts.
“Mondavi has been taking seriously the idea about following best practices in corporate governance,” said Timothy Ramey, an analyst at D.A. Davidson Inc. in Portland, Ore., told Reuters.
“Disassociating” the chairman and chief executive jobs from the family, he added, sends a signal to investors that the company is being run for them, rather than in the interest of the family.
Hall, who said his new job would allow him “to focus on board governance and effectiveness,” is the latest outsider to join the Mondavi board. He serves alongside five other independent directors, three family members and Chief Executive Greg Evans. One spot on the 11-member board is vacant.
Still, the Mondavi family controls 80% of the company’s voting shares and has the ability to appoint up to eight directors.
Michael Mondavi’s brother, Timothy, who holds the title of “winegrower,” is board co-vice chairman, and their sister, Marcia Mondavi Borger, also has a board seat.
Hall’s appointment was announced at the end of a trading day in which Mondavi’s shares fell 7 cents to $38.32 on Nasdaq. The shares have more than doubled from a 52-week low of $18.53 in March.
After a series of disappointing quarters, the company beat Wall Street’s expectations in October when its fiscal first-quarter profit rose 21% to $9.8 million, or 60 cents a share. Mondavi is scheduled to report second-quarter results Jan. 29.