As far as retirement announcements go, John Peller’s recent one was about as quiet as it gets.
On Nov. 9, Andrew Peller Ltd. released its second quarter financial results for the period ending Sept. 30, 2023 to its shareholders. Under the heading Leadership Continuity and Transition Plan, John Peller announced his intention to retire within the next year from his position as president and chief executive officer of the company begun by his grandfather in 1961.
As well, “independent directors Perry Miele, Shauneen Bruder, François Vimard and David Mongeau have all announced that they will be retiring effective immediately, to support a proactive refreshment of the board,” said the company statement.
Andrew Peller immigrated to Canada from Hungary in 1927. He soon opened the first new brewery in Canada following Prohibition. Peller’s Brewery in Hamilton, Ont. was later sold to E.P. Taylor and Andrew bought a farm in Port Moody, B.C. Andres Wines was born, its Baby Duck “champagne” was a huge success, and by 1964 wineries in Calgary, Alberta and Truro, Nova Scotia were added to the portfolio.
The company moved into Ontario with the 1970 purchase of Beau Chatel Wines in nearby Winona. Their first Niagara-on-the-Lake winery was Hillebrand Estates, now Trius Winery, which they acquired in 1994.
John succeeded his father Joe, who previously worked as a medical doctor in Hamilton, at the helm of the company in 1995, a year after the passing of Andrew.
In 2001, the company opened the palatial Peller Estates Winery on John Street East in NOTL. John Peller said at the time that the new location was a tribute to his grandfather’s vision. The company name change to Andrew Peller Ltd. was made in 2006.
In the past year, John Peller has been at the forefront of a movement to bring Niagara’s entire wine industry to the next level. Along with his son Grady, he has gathered together with a number of owners of wineries both large and small, grape growers, hotel operators, restaurant owners and post secondary schools they have begun lobbying all levels of government for more effective support of the industry.
John, who was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2020, is the third generation of Pellers to serve as CEO. He will retire after holding the position for 30 years.
Financially, the release to shareholders announced that sales for the first six months of 2023 remained relatively flat in comparison to the previous year, at $200.7 million compared to $199.5 million. At the same time the gross margin improved slightly from 38.9 percent in 2022 to 40 percent in the current year.
“We are encouraged by the increased profitability in fiscal 2024,” John Peller said in the statement. “Looking ahead to the longer term, we are optimistic about our future as global markets stabilize and inflationary pressures ease. We expect growth will come from our strong focus on our established trade channels, market share improvements, optimizing our selling prices and trade spending, and increasing our initiatives to enhance sales of our higher margin premium products.”
As the search for his replacement, and that of the other four members stepping down, begins, John Peller has promised to help choose the next company leader, and to add independent directors to the board within the next few weeks. The identity and details regarding the new board members will be announced at that time.
“I am committed to providing leadership and support, together with the other members of the board and the Peller family,” John said in the release, as the company enters the next chapter of its evolution.