Ste. Michelle President and CEO Ted Baseler retires. Company names Jim Mortensen as his successor.
Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, ended his storied and acclaimed career with the company on October 1st.
Baseler’s retirement caps a 34-year run with the company – including 17 years as President and CEO – during which his vision and leadership for Ste. Michelle, and the industry in general, fueled the evolution of the Washington wine industry and led to historic company and personal achievements.
“Ste. Michelle has been my other home for more than three decades. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of leading a team of dedicated, innovative colleagues,” Baseler said. “However, it’s time to live life away from the winery, which means transitioning the company to new leadership.”
“Ted’s innovative approach to building Ste. Michelle into a premium wine powerhouse, driven by his ‘String of Pearls’ philosophy, will be a lasting legacy,” said Howard Willard, Chairman and CEO of Altria Group, Inc., Ste. Michelle’s parent company since 2009. “He was more than Ste. Michelle’s President and CEO, “ continued Willard. “Ted was the face of the Northwest wine industry and helped solidify Washington State’s position as the second largest wine region in the U.S.”
Jim Mortensen, an accomplished general manager with global experience in consumer packaged goods businesses, has been appointed to succeed Baseler.
Mortensen’s career has spanned several continents, including as Region President, Latin America & Canada for Philip Morris International (PMI); President, Philip Morris Japan; Vice President, Trade Marketing for Philip Morris (USA); and Senior Vice President, Sales & Distribution for Miller Brewing Company.
In addition to his general management, sales and marketing expertise, Mortensen has a proven record with talent development and building strong leadership teams, culminating in his most recent role as PMI’s Senior Vice President, Human Resources.
“I greet this new challenge with tremendous enthusiasm and excitement,” said Mortensen. “The stellar reputation of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, its talented organization and renowned winemaking partners energize me. Our unwavering commitment to creating distinctive, high-quality wines and innovation across the enterprise will continue into the future. I take this opportunity to applaud Ted for his remarkable career, abundant achievements and lasting legacy.”
Legacy of Leadership
Ste. Michelle was almost exclusively a Washington-focused company when Baseler was named President and CEO in 2001. His vision for strategic acquisitions, capital investments and the development of an imported wines division, placed Ste. Michelle among the world’s best in industry rankings.
As president and CEO, Baseler increased operating company income from $21M in 2000 to $146M in 2017, with a compounded annual growth rate of 12.1%. Wine shipment volume grew from 2.8M cases to 8.5M cases over that same period, with a compounded annual growth rate of 6.8%.
He orchestrated Ste. Michelle’s surprise acquisition of the renowned Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars with the Antinori family in 2007, which the San Francisco Chronicle headlined “Napa Valley Stunner.” His unwavering commitment to quality resulted in wines lauded by critics, including Wine Spectator magazine’s coveted “No. 1 Wine in the World” title for the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in 2009.
Baseler coined the management philosophy ‘String of Pearls’ to organize Ste. Michelle’s premium and luxury wines business. Winemakers have independent control over vineyard and winemaking decisions for their estate (or ‘pearl’), while decisions for consolidated functions, such as marketing, sales or accounting, are managed corporately (the ‘string’).
He developed Ste. Michelle’s imports portfolio with exclusive arrangements with legendary wineries that are the leading producers and innovators in their respective regions, including Marchesi Antinori (Italy), Miguel Torres (Spain, Chile), Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte (France) and Villa Maria (New Zealand).
“It has been a great honor and career highlight to work with international wine legends including Piero Antinori, Renzo Cotarella, Ernst Loosen, Miguel Torres, Michel Gassier, George Fistonich, Christophe Juarez, and others,” Baseler said.
Baseler began his career at Ste. Michelle in 1984 as director of marketing and was offered ever-increasing levels of responsibility, eventually becoming chief operating officer before being named president and CEO in 2001.
Baseler’s many professional accolades include:
· “Man of the Year” (Wine Enthusiast, 2009)
· One of the “20 Most Admired People in the North American Wine Industry” (Vineyard Winery Management, 2013)
· Executive Excellence Award (Seattle Business magazine, 2018)
· Lifetime Achievement Award (Southern Wine & Spirits of America, 2015)
· Seattle-King County First Citizen for community leadership, volunteerism and public service (2015)
· Top 35 most influential business leaders of past 35 years (Puget Sound Business Journal, 2015)
Baseler was active in community leadership. He served as the chairman of the Washington Wine Commission, chairman of the Napa-based Wine Market Council, and director of the Washington Wine Institute. He also served on the Washington Business Roundtable and the Seattle Children’s Hospital board.
Baseler also has been a strong advocate for higher education. He was appointed by the Governor to the Washington State University (WSU) Board of Regents in 2006. He continues to serve on the board, including as its chair in 2011-2012 and 2017-2018.
His work included numerous projects that benefit the wine industry and community-at-large. He has been the chief advocate and leader of the project to build a world class enology and viticulture institution at WSU, later named the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center. He also was the driving force behind the company’s development of scholarship programs for students in need, granting more than $3 million in scholarships in recent years.
About Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, located in Woodinville, WA., has a distinguished history that dates back to 1934. The company pioneered vinifera grape growing in Washington State while wines under the Ste. Michelle label were first introduced in 1967. Today, SMWE owns more than 3,700 vineyard acres across Washington, Oregon and California with key sites certified with the LIVE, Salmon Safe or Napa Green designations.
SMWE’s ‘String of Pearls’ wine portfolio represents owned or imported brands, all demonstrating the producers’ unwavering commitment to creating distinctive, high quality wines from authentic estate vineyards.
Chateau Ste. Michelle, its cornerstone winery, enjoys winemaking partnerships with some of the world’s most distinguished vintners. Col Solare is an alliance with Tuscany’s Piero Antinori, Eroica Riesling is a partnership with the Mosel’s Ernst Loose, and Tenet is a collaboration with Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie of France.
SMWE’s charitable giving program, which supports some 400 non-profit organizations annually, has provided more than $3 million for scholarships for high-achieving, low-income students at Washington universities. The company also was the principal fundraiser for Washington State University’s viticulture and enology institution, the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center in Richland, WA.
Ste. Michelle’s Washington portfolio includes: Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, Col Solare, Northstar, Spring Valley Vineyard, Merf, Intrinsic, Seven Falls and Michelle sparkling wines.
In California, the company owns Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (with Italy’s Antinori family), Conn Creek (Napa Valley), and Patz & Hall (Sonoma). Ste. Michelle also owns Erath, in Dundee, Oregon.
The company became the exclusive U.S. importer in 2006 for the acclaimed Marchesi Antinori wine portfolio of Italy and Chile’s Haras wines, for Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte of France in 2009, for New Zealand’s Villa Maria Estate in 2010, and for Spain’s Torres in 2014.