Immediate Past Master

Christopher Searle

My Livery journey started unknowingly at school. Previous generations of the family were Brewers in North Finchley, so while the business had been acquired by others (the Flowers brand name still exists), it was not a surprise that I followed in my father’s footsteps in attending Aldenham, a boarding school in Hertfordshire, which was supported by the Worshipful Company of Brewers. We often wondered why the portrait of the Founder had a smudge of paint over his right hand, which clutched a bible. Perhaps the pint of beer got there first!

I progressed on to King’s College, London to study Chemistry, where I still managed to find time to captain the Men’s Hockey Team for two years, leading them to victory in the University League in my last year.

In 1977 I joined IDV in Harlow as a Brand Manager, where my first day at work involved sniffing a new recipe for Gilby’s Gin. Piat de Beaujolais gave me the excuse to do a couple of Beaujolais Nouveau runs to bring back the new Beaujolais quickly: midnight in Macon, then midday in London – all thanks to Morgan Cars and British Leyland!

Have risen to Marketing Manager at Gilbey Vintners and managing the major brands Smirnoff Vodka, Croft Original Sherry – and also launching Piat D’or – my ambition to be a Marketing Director was realised with a move to United Rum Merchants, handling iconic brands such as Lambs Navy Rum, Tia Maria, Remy Martin and Grand Marnier.

Following the takeover by Allied Domecq, I was attracted to Martini and Rossi to work on Martini and other famous European brands owned by the elegant Italian family of Rossi. Martini Racing was dominant in WRC – so what’s not to like!?

Structural changes in the family led to the merger with Bacardi in 1992/3, but in the UK we were already set up with a joint venture with Bacardi and Bass in 1989.

Martini bought a separate wine business from Bernard Teltscher and the terminally declining Lutomer Riesling, and I joined as a trouble shooting Managing Director to change the business from wine wholesaling to a branded agency, based on spirits and liqueurs. Today that is a very successful business owned by William Grant and Sons. I then moved into a European Corporate Affairs role to manage simple issues such as the move from local currencies to the Euro. Martini Racing beckoned again, as I also ran the Team Sponsorship of the Ford Focus team and rally stars like Colin Macrae and Carlos Sainz senior.

I was very fortunate to be offered honorary Chairman positions in The Wine & Spirits Trade Association and the Benevolent (now the Drinks Trust), and then the Portman Group (to protect Bacardi Breezers during the alcopop crisis).

In the final 6 years of my career, I was appointed to a newly created global role of CSR and International affairs Director, implementing a new reporting structure covering responsible marketing and sustainability, and managing a CSR campaign, ‘Champions drink Responsibly’. I was privileged to work with Global Ambassadors like Michael Schumacher and Rafa Nadal and famous memories were created, most notably the Top Gear stunt.

It was an honour to serve the Company as Master in 2022/23.