LDC Top 50 2023
Tony Cleary MBE
When Tony Cleary MBE started Lanchester Wines with his wife, Veronica, back in 1980, the UK wine offering was basic: “It was all Blue Nun and Lambrusco.” He believed the industry would explode over the coming decade. He was right.
Today, the company has expanded to become the Lanchester Group; five businesses encompassing wine importing and wholesaler, wine bottling, hampers, chocolates and a brewery. In the early days, he set himself the goal of employing 500 local people. Cleary has now surpassed his goal, he says: “Now I’m focused on making this business as strong as possible; it’ll be my legacy.”
We are about to finish building Greencroft Two, our new bottling facility and possibly the most sustainable large building worldwide.”
What is your sustainability strategy?
We have spent around £13 million on renewable heat and energy generation at our North East and Yorkshire sites; wind turbines and solar panels create our electricity and we heat warehouses with geothermal heat pumps, using water from a disused mine workings. We are about to finish building Greencroft Two, our new wine bottling facility and possibly the most sustainable large building worldwide. That’s cost £21 million, £4.8 million of which is sustainable practices, and will be able to bottle up to 400 million litres a year – about a quarter of all the wine sold in the UK.
What was your biggest mistake?
I started the business with two colleagues. My father always said that partnerships were the worst ships to sail in, and he was right. One left after a year and the other left after six. Once I was on my own, that’s when we really got going.
Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
I am always looking for gaps in the market. That’s probably why I run so many businesses – I have wine businesses, a hamper packing company and a luxury confectionery business, among others. My mother ran the local Post Office and my father worked for British Coal, and always wanted to run his own business. I wonder whether that’s why I have never let anything stand in my way.