Toast of the town

Larry Soldinger was the toast of AIM last December when, as chairman of
Cosentino Signature Wines, he brought the US company to the London Alternative

And he is quite clear why he rejected the US markets in favour of a listing
across the pond.

‘As a certified public accountant, I deal with a number of public companies
in the US and I am well aware of Sarbanes-Oxley and how cost-prohibitive it is
for a small company to go public in the US,’ Soldinger explains.

Cosentino was founded by Mitch Cosentino and is based in the Napa Valley,
California. It specialises in producing high-quality, premium wines and, now
that it is listed on AIM, will also act as a consolidator of smaller wineries –
last month it announced the acquisition of fellow Napa Valley winery

When Soldinger took the decision to go public he turned to Nick Gaskell at
Saffery Champness to act as reporting accountant and auditor. Soldinger had
experience of dual-listings for US companies, but had not had any direct
dealings with AIM.

‘I called Nick, who was doing some lectures on the benefits of AIM. We talked
through the issues and he was very instrumental in us choosing to go on AIM,’
says Soldinger.

Soldinger felt it was important to get the flotation away before the
Christmas break and set a deadline of 1 December. This meant that Gaskell and
his team needed to audit three-and-a-half years’ worth of accounts in 90 days –
the accounts also needed to be converted from US GAAP to IFRS at the same time.

Soldinger chose to go with a mid-tier firm rather than one of the Big Four
because he felt he would get better and more personal attention.

‘Nick gave us personal attention, and he clearly understood the issues. He
was always available, despite the time differences, which sometimes meant he was
up all night,’ explains Soldinger. ‘We really relied on Nick, and he was on top
of things.’

The experience was a learning exercise for Saffery Champness as well. As
Soldinger explains, his was one of the first companies that the firm had worked
with under IFRS. ‘But they had very smart people on the team, which made it very
easy,’ says Soldinger.

As well as auditing the figures, Saffery Champness worked on the public
documents such as the prospectus and provided tax advice.

For the future, the business intends to grow through acquiring other wineries
and aims to establish itself as an international brand. And by listing on AIM,
the company has ironically become very high profile in its home country.


‘Companies in the US have become very interested in AIM,’ says Larry
Soldinger, chairman of Cosentino Signature Wines. ‘Sarbanes-Oxley has been tough
on companies. It is cost-prohibitive and the reporting requirements are

However, Soldinger predicts a gradual convergence of regulation. ‘I think we
will see an easing of those regulatory demands [in the US]. And as you see this
easing in the US, I think Europe may become a little tougher.’ But he remains a
strong advocate of AIM. ‘As a CPA, I intend to bring some of my own clients to
AIM,’ he says.

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