Just months after stepping down as the president and chief executive of Moët -Hennessy, Christophe Navarre has taken on the role of an investor and board member of Vivino, the popular online wine community.
“I always said after 20 years, and I’m nearly 60, I think it is good to move to another life, which for me is the life of an entrepreneur,” Navarre told Wine Enthusiast on the sidelines of a party for Vivino’s Wine Style Awards. In 1997, Navarre joined as president and CEO of JAS Hennessy & Co. and then became CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy.
“When I joined Hennessy, it was not doing very well,” he says, “but I was able to run it as if it was my own company during those 20 years and it became quite successful.”
His former boss, Bernard Arnault, noted Navarre was able to strengthen Moët Hennessy’s position “as one of the most iconic and profitable groups in its sector.” In 2016, Hennessy sold 3.7 million cases and accounted for about two-thirds of the overall Cognac market.
Officially, Navarre left to focus on his investment fund, SCP Neptune International. The same month he stepped down from LVMH, he joined the board of directors of JetSmarter, which is like an Uber for executives in need of a private jet.
Navarre’s investment fund led a $25 million Series B round of financing in 2016 for Vivino and he took a seat on the company’s board.
Denying he was on an app-hunt, Navarre insists he wants to be an entrepreneur.
“And you know what an entrepreneur is? Entrepreneurs are people who risk their own money. And that’s what I’m doing now. It’s quite different from the corporate life,” Navarre says.
The New Revolution
At 59, Navarre says he’s not the oldest person when he walks into the San Francisco offices of Vivino, which has 27 million users who review millions of wines a year. It also links those users with merchants around the globe who stock the wines they want to try.
“I strongly believe in what we call the force in this revolution connecting people,” Navarre says. “First, I’m learning a lot. I think this new generation, this new way of thinking, this new way of connecting people with some old recipes can probably generate something extremely interesting.”
Asked why he decided to invest in Vivino, Navarre replies, “that this app, Vivino, as a company can become the biggest wine merchant in the world. I’m a businessman. And I think this app will generate a lot of business in the future.”
Heini Zachariassen, Vivino’s president and CEO, says having Navarre to turn to has “been really good. He is incredibly experienced.”
The Danish entrepreneur, who is a generation younger than Navarre, says Vivino differs from Wine-Searcher because “they are focused a lot on the price data. They’re pretty good at that, but we’re catching up.
“But we are really good as a community, getting people to engage,” he says. Two years after starting the business in Copenhagen in 2010, Vivino had about 6 million members. “Now we have 27 million.” He prefers to compare Vivino with a wine magazine that rates on average between 15,000 and 16,000 a year. “Our community rates 100,000 wines a day. That’s a shift that’s coming to wine everywhere.”
And Navarre has found the community’s ratings helpful as he learns about New World wines. “At Moët -Hennessy, of course, I knew the wines we had and I was perfectly familiar with many other European wines, but I readily admit I was a novice when it came to the New World. Now, if a wine has a 4-star or 5-star rating by 1,000 people—well, the odds are very good I’m going to be having a well-made wine.”