Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland drinks firm goes into administration

By Margaret Canning

A drinks company set up by one of Northern Ireland's best-known industry figures has gone into administration after financial difficulties, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Around 10 jobs have been lost after Botl Wine and Spirit Merchants, based on Boucher Road in Belfast, entered insolvency proceedings.

Veteran Jim O'Neill - a former managing director of United Wine Merchants described as "much-loved" in the industry - had established the firm in 2007 as a drinks wholesaler and distributor. His son Conor is sales director.

Last year the business invested £500,000 to launch Butterfly Cane Rum, an import from Trinidad sold in supermarkets including Asda.

It also produces Belfast 1912 Cask Gin, which announced a listing with Tesco last year.

Insolvency experts from RSM Chartered Accountants were appointed administrators this month in a move reported by industry magazine The Grocer.

In Botl's most recent accounts for the year ending September 30, 2015, it reported turnover of £10.7m, down slightly from £11.7m a year earlier. Pre-tax profits were down from £137,000 to £109,000.

A spokeswoman for RSM said Stephen Armstrong and Jeremy Woodside had been appointed administrators on July 4.

"The company was a leading distributor and wholesaler of wine and spirits working with bars, restaurants, retailers, wholesalers and national multiples across Northern Ireland and had 10 employees," she said.

"The company was unable to continue to trade due to financial difficulties, so the decision was made to appoint administrators. All employees have been made redundant and administrators are working with them regarding their claims."

Speaking last year, Mr O'Neill said the launch of Butterfly Cane Rum had been part of a bid to target a younger drinker.

"Its name and the taste profile were researched thoroughly by an agency in London and we believe it will be more appealing to the younger generation," he told an industry magazine.

"It will be positioned alongside the category leaders to take them on, and is premium in every way from the spirit itself to the labelling and packaging.

"The label is UV-inked to catch the light in nightclubs and we hope this level of attention to detail will give it universal appeal."

One industry observer called Mr O'Neill "a much-loved drinks industry veteran, with decades of experience supplying the on and off-trade in Northern Ireland".

Belfast Telegraph

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