Ex-WaverleyTBS boss predicts more consolidation in wholesale drinks market

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Related tags: Wholesale

Benger: "It all unwound very quickly and we had less than four weeks to sell the business"
Benger: "It all unwound very quickly and we had less than four weeks to sell the business"
The former chief executive of failed drinks wholesaler WaverleyTBS has predicted more consolidation in the wholesale market in 2013, with a number of regional players set to "drop out".

In an exclusive interview with the Publican's Morning Advertiser's​ sister title M&C Report,​ Steve Benger pointed to three main factors as the cause of its collapse; major creditors pulling their credit in mid-2012; poor summer weather; and falling margins.

WaverleyTBS folded in October with £64.5m in debts leading to huge problems for pubs across the country as they desperately searched for alternative drinks suppliers.

Following a strategy review, Benger said attempts were made to sell the business in early September but time ran out by the end of that month. “The obvious answer in hindsight was to have affected a trade sale earlier. It all unwound very quickly and we had less than four weeks to try and sell the business.”

He stressed that it was impossible to foresee the particular set of circumstances nine months later that led to Waverley's collapse.

Despite genuine interest from rival firms, Benger said there was no time to complete a deal and the administrators Deloitte wound the business up on 8 October.

Benger predicted more consolidation. “I think there will be a number of regional players who will drop out. Whether we get some consolidation with some regionals getting together, I’m not sure. But my view is not all of the regional players will survive.

“In the national space at this moment in time, consolidation is required to survive.”

Benger said he believes most unsecured creditors, which include a number of drinks companies, won’t see much of the money owed to them.

“I do know the secured creditors were covered, I think, pre-Christmas. There is probably going to be some dispersement to unsecured creditors but I think it’s going to be relatively small if I’m honest.”

However, he made the point that there’s “some degree of set-off” among some brewer/pub operators companies that may also have owed Waverley money for products.

Benger believes about half of former Waverley staff had found new roles with other wholesalers, brand owners or retailers.

The full interview will appear in the 31 January issue of the PMA

Related topics: Other operators