Shaper: Frazer Thompson

Show aired on 16th May 2015


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.

Frazer became Managing Director of Chapel Down in November 2001. Since then he has helped to raise 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 successfully secured five rounds of fund-raising, whilst creating a Board and building a team. In September 2014 he raised a further £3.9m in what was the world’s biggest equity crowd funding, in record time and a first for a listed company.

Chapel Down wines has won many international awards, including three Gold Medals (of 229 awarded globally) at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2013. In 2011 Frazer 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.

Follow Frazer on Twitter @englishwines

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“…one of my mantras is to try and go to bed just a little less stupid than I was when I woke up.”

“I had been given this fantastic opportunity to go around the world selling beer with Heineken – it doesn’t get much better than that as a Geordie, I can tell you.”

“Nothing is ever as easy as you think it is going to be on paper, and the first thing that happened was the Gulf War. Forty percent of our sales disappeared overnight because British Airways had decided not to stock wines on flights internally.”

“…about three days into the job, somebody came to repossess the photocopier. Now that didn’t happen at Heineken and it never happened at Whitbread either…”

“You absolutely stick to that plan, that you have got to make great products, you’ve got to make a product that you feel passionate about.”

“People and product, that’s what great investors are going to back.”

“In 2004, two things happened. One awful and one very good. And the awful thing actually turned out to be quite good…”

“…particularly when you do crowdfunding, which is becoming very popular at the moment, you need to have real empathy with the people who own the business.”

“That continual search for that extra layer of complexity, that extra layer of something that nobody else can do, is the thing that still drives us to this day.”

“I was the guy who put the widget in a can of Boddingtons…”