CEO of Château de Pommard, Michael Baum sat down with the BBC for an in-depth interview about his background, how he came to buy Château de Pommard and his hopes for the winery. We love working with our clients and telling their stories in a meaningful way, so please enjoy this excerpt from the piece originally appearing on BBC The Boss where you can read the full article.
When American tech entrepreneur Michael Baum bought a prestigious winery in France’s Burgundy region it caused a trans-Atlantic spat.
“[French newspaper] Le Figaro covered the announcement on its website, and there were about 2,500 comments on the article,” says Michael, 57.
“You could split the comments right down the middle. Half of them were ‘damn foreigners stealing our heritage’. the other half were ‘if it wasn’t for Americans you’d all be eating sauerkraut right now’.
“So you can say it was pretty divisive.”
This was back in 2014, when Michael purchased Chateau de Pommard and its 25 hectares (62 acres) of vines for an undisclosed sum in the many millions.
He could afford the price because he had made a fortune in Silicon Valley, most notably as the founder and former chief executive of a software company hardly any of us have heard of – Splunk.
It is complicated stuff, but in simple terms, its software allows firms to monitor their data and security systems. With annual revenues of $1.8bn (£1.6bn), Splunk’s customers are many of the world’s largest companies. They include 92 of the Fortune 100 list of the biggest 100 businesses in the US by annual turnover.
Michael and his two co-founders launched Splunk back in 2003, and today it is a listed company with a market capitalisation (the combined value of all its shares) of more than than $16bn. While Michael retired from day-to-day involvement in the business in 2009, he says that he remains the largest individual shareholder.
Today, in addition to running his French winery, or domaine, he sits on the board of eight other companies in the US and Europe, and he has a multitude of additional business investments. He is also the founder of a mentoring and funding scheme for young entrepreneurs called Founder.org.
“I like to keep busy,” he says. “Certain people, call them entrepreneurial or creative types, are just wired that way. For me work is about creativity, it is about building things. That is what is exciting to me.”
However, living in California, America’s main wine growing state, he didn’t like American wine.
“I didn’t think I liked wine when I was a younger man, because I didn’t like the American stuff,” he says. “It is more often too heavy, too sweet, too alcoholic.
“Then I went to Europe for the first time when I was 28, and tried French wine for the first time. And it was a huge revelation.
“French wine is far more elegant, far more mineral, far more traditionally made. It is night and day.
“Then in 2012 we [my wife and I] moved to Paris for a year, just to take a hiatus, and I started looking more intensely at doing something in wine in France. We went to Burgundy, and I was like ‘this is it, this is ground zero, this is the benchmark’. I fell hard for Burgundy wines.
Be sure to read the full article on the BBC website.