Layoffs at Major Wine Label

Kendall-Jackson makes sweeping job cuts

Wine mogul Jess Jackson this week unleashed sweeping job cuts across his Santa Rosa-based wine empire in response to the deepening recession and grim forecasts for the fate of high-end wines in the coming year.

Jackson Family Wines declined to discuss the scope of the layoffs, but several people familiar with the reductions estimated that around 170 employees lost their jobs in all areas of the company over the past two weeks.

Rumors of a shakeup at his Jackson Family Wines have been swirling for weeks, and many workers learned their fate on what employees were calling “Black Friday.” Winemakers, marketing professionals, administrative assistants, accountants and hospitality staff were among the employees axed.

Jackson Family Wines is the largest wine group in Sonoma County, selling an estimated 5.6 million cases of wine last year made from 14,000 acres of vineyards around the state.

It owns more than 36 different wineries under the Jackson Family Wines umbrella, the largest by far being the flagship Kendall-Jackson.

The company had 810 employees in Sonoma County in mid-2008, according to The Press Democrat’s Outlook survey. The company has since ceased disclosing employee figures.

Jackson has been snapping up luxury wine brands for more than a decade, fueled by ever increasing profits from the success of Kendall-Jackson, the best selling chardonnay in the nation in its category. The high-end wine segment, particularly those brands that sell upwards of $100 a bottle have been hit the hardest in the economic downturn.

Just a few years ago, Jackson paid $97 million to acquire a portfolio of three luxury wine brands, Arrowood in Sonoma, Byron on the Central Coast, and Freemark Abbey in St. Helena.

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