How does an M&A deal lawyer become a wine importer overnight? At this year’s flagship Axial Concord conference in NYC, Axial CEO Peter Lerhman talked to Michael Votto, president and chairman of Votto Vines, about starting and growing his wine importing business. In 2009, Votto Vines sold about 1,000 cases of wine; in 2018, that number was 350,000. In 2014, Votto Vines was the first-ever wine importing company to make the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
Mike grew up in a big Italian-American family with plenty of siblings and cousins. “Every Sunday — and a lot of other days too — we ended up at my grandmother’s house with macaroni and a bottle of wine on the table,” he said. During a trip to Italy when he and his wife were newlyweds, he realized that few if any of the small, locally owned vineyards they visited exported their wine to the U.S. “They thought the wine importers and distributors [in the U.S.] were all really big guys who wouldn’t be interested in importing from a boutique winery because there wasn’t enough scale,” Mike said.
Seeing a clear business opportunity, Mike recruited several of his family members to join him in getting Votto Vines off the ground.
A long-time Axial member, Votto Vines has used the network and Axial events to find financing partners — they connected with a family office at Axial Concord 2015 who became a growth equity investor the following year. At this year’s flagship Concord event in NYC, Peter spoke with Mike about how his business got off the ground, how they think about making and financing acquisitions, what kind of capital partners they look for and why, how they found capital early on, and more.
Watch the full video below.