Villa Maria appoints new chief executive

Sir George Fistonich is handing over the reins at Villa Maria to a new chief executive after spending 57 years at the helm of the company.

He first started production under the Villa Maria banner in 1961 and it has gone on to become one of the world’s most iconic wine brands.

He has now appointed Abe Salt as chief executive, with the role set to commence on March 5. Abe will, however, report to Sir George, who plans to maintain a hands-on role in the company.

“Due to Villa Maria’s success as a major player globally, my ambassador role has become extremely time consuming,” said Sir George. “As the chie executive, Abe will be able to manage the important day to day operations and strategic priorities for the company. This will allow me to concentrate on my global brand ambassadorial role and drive other large projects such as the development of our new winery and retail centre in Hawkes Bay.”

Salt has 15 years’ industry experience and was most recently principal at Iron Gate Consulting, offering strategic advice to the trade. Prior to that he was global of strategy at Treasury Wine Estates, one of the world’s largest wine firms. In New Zealand, he led TWE’s acquisition of its Matua Marlborough winery.

Salt, who has experience in each of Villa Maria’s key export markets, including the UK, is relocating from Melbourne to Auckland to take up the role.