For Rowan Gormley, disruptive business models have become a way of life. A trained accountant, he launched Virgin Money with Sir Richard Branson in 1995, before turning his hand to shaking up the wine industry.
In 2008 he founded Naked Wines, the crowdfunding wine business, whose ‘Angels’ fund winemakers and gain access to their products at wholesale price. Launching the businesses “in the depths of the global financial crisis” was, he says, his proudest achievement.
The company built up a base of more than 300,000 Angels, and in 2015 was acquired by wine retailer Majestic, with Gormley becoming CEO of the combined group.
The entrepreneur, who helped bring the wine industry into the digital era, is now faced with the different challenge of re-energising a 200-store high street brand. He is currently overseeing a three-year plan, designed to deliver sales of £500 million, and to modernise the company’s IT systems and multichannel retail experience. He says: “Our goal is to deliver shareholder value sustainably by doing the right things for customers, staff and suppliers.”
Within that, Rowan describes his own role as “to find the right people, make sure they are pointed in the right direction with the right resources — then get out of the way”.
It is important, he believes, that businesses play a wider role in society “because it is in shareholders’ best interests. Sustainable growth comes from doing the right thing”.