No beer for Fergie: MU's ex-boss auctions off vintage wines at RM16.3mil

  • People
  • Thursday, 17 Apr 2014

To take his mind off the pressure of “the beautiful game”, former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson collected vintage wines and he’s auctioning all 5,000 bottles in May.

Definitely not a wallflower, Sir Alex Ferguson has been working a non-stop schedule since his retirement as Man Utd's manager, including launching a best-selling book, supporting Andy Murray at Wimbledon, turning up at the Oscars Vanity Fair party, and now he's auctioning his wine collection. Say what?

While it's a well known fact among Old Trafford fans that Fergie loves a bit of fermented grape juice every now and then, the fact that he's amassed a collection of 5,000 bottles with an estimated pre-sale value of three million pounds (RM16.3mil) is rather surprising. 

And now Fergie's putting it all up for sale, together with autographed memorabilia through auction house Christie’s. What's more? He's aiming to make a killing on the Asian market, where most of his wines are sought after by collectors and connoisseurs. 

Christie's auction house employees pose with a six-litre imperiale Sassicaia 2005 wine, signed by retired Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson.

The cellar consists almost 75% of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, a French Burgundy which Christie’s international director of wine David Elswood said “is probably the wine in vogue, the wine of the moment in terms of demand. 

“So hopefully that’s going to draw the attention of not just Alex Ferguson fans but wine fans too,” he said.

He expects big interest among Asian buyers, who have been snapping up top-flight wines for years and where about 60% of the lots will be on offer in Hong Kong on May 24. About a third of the cellar will be offered in London in June and about 10% through Internet sales later that month.

“Even if you disregard the Alex Ferguson connection, the quality and type of wine in his collection is generally what sells very strongly in Asia at the moment,” Elswood said.

Days of wine and footy

The cellar spans every year of Ferguson’s career with United from 1986 until he retired in 2013. It includes lots from 1999, the year United won a treble of the English Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup, a feat never previously accomplished and not duplicated since.

“People keep saying, ‘What was the best moment of your life as a manager?’ and ‘99 is without question,” Ferguson is quoted as saying in an interview with Elswood to promote the sale.

“There was always this thing about my career that I never had won the Champions League, so to win it in the way we did win it was absolutely fantastically special. And it coincided with a vintage; you were talking about Romanee-Conti ‘99, a really special year. I think we deserved that,” Ferguson is quoted as saying in the conversation with Elswood.

Just to give readers an idea of the value of Ferguson's wine collection, the going price for a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 1999 is between RM50,000 and RM67,000. Meanwhile, Petrus 1988 can set you back as high as RM8,000 per bottle.

A Christie's employee displays a case of twelve bottles of Petrus 1988 wine owned by retired Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson – a single bottle can fetch up to RM8k, but due to Ferguson's celebrity status, it's expected to sell for higher. – Reuters

Christie’s said Ferguson had declined to be interviewed directly about the auction, but he also told Elswood that he took up wine collecting in 1991 during a visit to France and it developed into a way to relieve the stress of his job.

“Taking an interest in wine allowed me to have an interest outside the game. You have to have outside interests to distract you from the intensity and the pressure you come under as a football manager.

“And all of a sudden, two or three years ago, when I’m going through the portfolio, we realise this has got to be an amazing amount of wine. I retired last year, and I thought this was a good time to, to sell it,” Ferguson added.

He says it became a ritual to treat visiting managers to a glass of his finest, and to accept gift bottles in return. “Even though the rivalries are intense, you have to find that moment where you can say, ‘Look, the game’s a game – let’s carry on with our lives,’” Ferguson said. – Reuters

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