Fund Seeks $100 Million to Buy Vineyards

Chinese investors likely to target planted California property in Napa and Sonoma

by Paul Franson
hina group
Richard Wollack (left) and other investors are partnering with Hina Group (founded by Dr. Hong Chen, right) to create the Hina Vineyard Fund.
San Francisco, Calif.—Well-known vineyard and winery investor Richard Wollack has formed a company to select and manage high-end vineyard properties with Chinese investors.

Wollack, the founder and former managing principal of Premier Pacific Vineyards, is partnering with the Hina Group (a financial firm in Beijing, China, that has offices in San Francisco, Calif.) in creating the Hina Vineyard Fund.

Other local partners include investor Skip Whitney of San Francisco and Frank Farella of the Farella Braun + Martel law firm.

Wollack says that Hina hopes to raise $100 million with high-net-worth individuals in Beijing and other Chinese cities. “We anticipate our first closing of one-quarter to one-third of (the $100 million goal) in the next two to three months,” he said. Wollack expects the first property purchase to occur in the first part of next year, but says he already is staying on top of what’s available and what might be.

He added: “Some of the potential investors are already visiting to learn more about Napa Valley; in fact, I met with one yesterday. There seems to be great interest in California vineyard property.”

Long-term appreciation
Wollack continued, “The potential investors are not looking for high current yield but are drawn to the properties because top vineyard property doesn’t go down in value, and it shows long-term appreciation.”

The investors likely will be most interested in existing vineyard property, but the fund may buy a winery if the investors would like to present their own brands in China for gifts and other uses. “They may also want to grow the business in China.”

Wollack said that the initial targets are Napa and Sonoma, but the fund also will look at Mendocino and Santa Barbara.

He also acknowledged that wineries are buying vineyard property now to ensure sufficient supply of grapes, but feels that there will be sufficient investment opportunities.

Email Wollack at rwollack@ppvco.com or call (707) 224-6565, ext. 207 or (415) 385-3535 (cell.)

California partners
Frank E. Farella is a founding partner of Farella Braun + Martel and supervises many of the firm’s mergers and acquisition transactions. He has a long history in wine and has been a key player in the growth of the Napa Valley as a wine market.  He represents several premium Napa Valley wineries and vineyards and served on the board of directors of the Robert Mondavi Corp. Farella owns and operates his family’s self-named vineyard and winery in the Napa Valley.

Skip Whitney is a principal with Kidder Mathews, one of the largest independent commercial real estate firms on the West Coast. He also works closely with venture capital companies in life sciences, biotech and green tech companies in Shanghai, China. He serves as strategic advisor to the president of Fudan University and is a founding member of the Fudan School of Innovation in Shanghai. 

Richard Wollack was the founder and has been managing partner of Premier Pacific Vineyards. He has been involved in all phases of the real estate investment business since 1971 and has been a principal in dozens of real estate entities with a combined capitalization of more than $5 billion.  The author of two books about real estate and investing, he also has been an adjunct professor at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Business. He was a member of the California Senate Commission on Corporate Governance, Shareholder Rights and Securities Transactions. Wollack holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. He is a licensed California real estate broker. 

Founder of Hina Group
Dr. Hong Chen founded The Hina Group in 2003, and he serves as the chairman and CEO. It has become one of China’s leading cross-border investment banking and private equity firms.  It claims to leverage its international experience, world-wide network and local expertise to help China’s top enterprises realize their global aspirations while providing our international partners, investors and clients with the means to capitalize on emerging opportunities in China. It has more than 50 professionals in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and San Francisco.

Prior to founding The Hina Group, Chen was founder, chairman and CEO of GRIC Communications, which he led to its successful IPO on the NASDAQ in 1999. Before GRIC, he was founder, chairman and CEO of Aimnet, a leading regional Internet service provider, which was sold to NTT/Verio in 1996.

Chen was the president and chairman of the Asian American MultiTech Association in 2000 and 2001. With more than 1000 members, AAMA is the largest Asia Pacific-focused high-tech business and executive association in Silicon Valley. Chen also served from 2000 to 2003 as the founding president of Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association, the most prominent club of mainland-born Chinese business leaders in Silicon Valley and China.

Chen received his Ph.D. in computer science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Xi’an Jiaotong University.

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