Jan 14, 2014 8:54 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News
Eberle Winery in Paso Robles is under new management. It's all part of what former chairman Gary Eberle calls a hostile takeover which removed him from making any business decisions at the winery he founded nearly 50 years ago.
Eberle says he found out Monday morning that two of his longtime partners and his sister-in-law voted him out as general partner and general manager of the winery he founded in the 1970s.
"If you had walked in and hit me between the eyes with a ball peen hammer, I couldn't have been any more surprised," said Eberle. "They said they had 52% of the ownership. I only have 35.5%, and they just said we voted you out."
Eberle's brother was recently put into a care center for Alzheimer's. That's when his ownership was transferred to Eberle's sister-in-law. He says it really comes down to different business philosophies.
"Over the next two years my business plan was to take the winery to 30,000 cases," said Eberle. "They told me that they think the winery should be doing 150-200,000 cases."
That's a huge increase, especially considering 90% of Paso Robles wineries produce fewer than 5,000 cases per year.
Eberle says he is no longer allowed to make any decisions on behalf of the winery, but can still be the face of it. That's something Christopher Taranto of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance says is crucial for the region.
"Gary's a big man and he's big personality and he's a big spokesperson to the Paso Robles region," said Taranto. "That man travels thousands of miles on his own and sits there and talks about the wine region just as much as he talks about his wine."
KSBY reached out to the winery for comment, but they declined.
As Eberle looks over his land, he says feelings of disbelief rush over him.
"Do I feel hurt? Yes. Do I wish this could have happened in a different way? Yes. Will I do everything possible to keep the winery successful? Absolutely, but I'm scared to death," said Eberle.
Eberle does retain his ownership rights. New management says they are trying to work with him to smooth out the situation.
Eberle says he has not decided on whether to obtain legal counsel at this point.
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