16th May: Frazer Thompson

This week Elliot Moss is joined by Frazer Thompson, CEO of Chapel Down.  

Born in July 1959, and from Newcastle, after graduating in 1981 Frazer, as a Geordie, was drawn to beer.  By the age of 29, he was made a director of Whitbread plc having led the team behind the success of Boddingtons in the early 90s with its famous advertising and  draughtflow widget.

He was poached by Heineken NV in 1995 to become Global Brand Director for the Heineken trademark, the first non-Dutchman to take the role. He travelled the World marketing beer. As a Geordie where do you go after that?

He accepted the challenge of Managing Director of Chapel Down in November 2001. Since then he has been one of the driving forces that has raised the profile of English wine to such an extent that demand now vastly exceeds supply (a complete reversal of fortune). He has made the largest English wine company profitable, developed a well-respected and valuable premium brand and has successfully secured five rounds of fund-raising and created a Board and team second to none. In September 2014 he raised a further £3.9m in what was the World’s biggest equity crowd funding, in a World record time and a first for a listed company. With an additional 1,500 investors, he now has over 2,300 “pilgrims” who can rant about the virtues of English wine at dinner parties whilst enjoying shareholder discounts.

Chapel Down wines have now won many International awards, including an extraordinary three Gold Medals (of 229 awarded in the World) at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 including Regional Trophy for Best English Sparkling Wine and one for a still Chardonnay. Yes. A Chardonnay from England! In 2011 he launched a beer using winemaking techniques – Curious Brew, which promptly won a Gold Medal at the International Brewing Awards and Trophy for Best lager beer under 5% abv in 2012. The best beer in the World, in 12 months.

His company has won awards for its Marketing (Marketing Society Awards for Excellence Runner-up to Green and Blacks 2008), Presidents Award for Marketing Excellence in Food and Drink 2009 (from The Chartered Institute of Marketing) and it’s Retail Shop (Tourism South East ExSEllence Awards, Leisure and Tourism Business of the Year 2010). The Company won Kent Small Business of the Year 2009 and Leisure and Tourism Business of the Year in 2010 and Land based Business of the Year in 2013.  

Frazer was Chairman of the Institute of Directors in Kent from 2007-9 and was Plus Market (now ISDX) Investors’ CEO of the Year in 2008 and is a Kent Ambassador. He lives at Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse, which his wife Sue runs as a 7 bed luxury B&B. They have three sons, Patrick, Will and George, aged 26, 25 and 25.