Saturday, November 29, 2008


By John M. Olney, November 28, 2008
Copyright, all rights and privileges reserved
Wine Country Marketing & Promotions, 1325 Imola West, #409, Napa, CA 94559
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Just about the same time I placed Part 1 of my analysis and assessment of the COPIA operations on my blob site, ("COPIA Continues to Defy Definition," November 24, 2008,) the Internet started listing the sudden and unannounced closure of the building complex last Friday afternoon (Nov. 21) leaving both patrons and signed performers in a quandary. COPIA officials just left a message on the door indicating to arriving patrons to access the COPIA Web site for more information but the site had no information concerning the reasons for the surprising closure.

But, this isn’t the first incident of poor PR by the senior executives of COPIA. They did the same thing back on September 27 when they announced the new winter hours and that they would be closing the door on October 1 except for open days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But the open doors would only be for the restaurant and gift shop. The wine dispensing machines, and the exhibits where not accessible. The senior COPIA executives did the same thing in September as they just did last week; they just left a sign, October 1, on the door saying they were sorry for any inconvenience but they were now closed except weekends.

Imagine, people who do not have access to the local media resources of the Bay Area and are planning their trip from Florida, North Dakota, France, Italy, Australia, etc. and incorporated a visit to COPIA because of what they had heard it was suppose to represent, drive up after their distant travels, to find a “I am sorry” sign!

These are certainly cases of the worst Public Relations handling any business entity could make which is working to raise donation and investor capital while trying to increase patronage (both local and tourist) to its programs and events.
Apparently COPIA uses a Los Angeles based publicist as its spokesperson; at least that is what a couple of news articles have cited for comments about what is happening at COPIA. Why is COPIA going all the way to SOCAL? There isn‘t an acceptable publicist in the local area who could be right on top of the pulse of COPIA?

In an Associated Press article, November 25, 2008, titled, “Mondavi food and wine museum shuts doors in Napa, AP said, “Copia chief executive Garry McGuire blamed the current credit crisis for the closure announced Monday.” How convenient the current economic slump is for Mr. McGuire! He doesn’t have to explain the operating losses incurred under his management - about $1.2 million per month, give or take- nor that of the previous two CEO’s. Nor does he have to explain the fact that COPIA has not made a payment on the outstanding principal bond amount of about $80 million, the first increment of which was gained back in 2001! Below is just one recent example of the apparent confusion, or possibly dreaming, at the senior executive level of COPIA and it relates to the possible sale of the grounds and building:

In a Napa Valley Register article dated November 11, 2008:
The new CEO offered a rare, "No comment," when asked if he had a buyer. Among the possible buyers is the city of Napa, which could use the site for a civic center, but financing it would be challenging.

In a Napa Valley Register article dated November 23, 2008
Last week, McGuire said the Copia property is for sale. He and Copia board member Joe Fisher said they hope to find a buyer who will allow
the center to stay on the site.

A Sacramento Bee article dated November 24, 2008 said:
Sharon Boorstin, a Los Angeles-based publicist for Copia, said the Restructuring under consideration involves plans by COPIA to sell its sprawling -Napa-based complex and use of the proceeds to pay down its debt. "It's the whole Turnaround thing," she said in an interview.

A Wines & Vines article on November 24, 2008 indicated the following:
“In an e-mail received Saturday night [Nov. 22] at 9:13 p.m., CEO mcGuire said, ‘We are about 24 hours away from signing a deal to sell the campus. I cannot comment tonight, but will call you [W&V writer Paul Franson] as soon as the deal is signed.’ He had not commented by early Monday afternoon.” [Nov, 24], a British wine magazine and Web site, said on November 24, 2008,
“Copia, the troubled wine, food and arts centre in Napa, should re-open on 1 December, its chief executive said. “

However, a Santa Rosa Press Democrat article dated November 25, 2008 said,
“It's unclear when the $78 million facility will reopen. Copia will Release more information about its future after the Thanksgiving holiday, said sharon Boorstin, a Los Angeles public relations executive who represents the center.”

On Friday a developer friend of mine received a voice mail reply from COPIA’s CFO that indicated if my friend could come up with a $30 million check in the next 72 hours the 12 acre complex would be his to own and operate. This voice message certainly suggests that Napa City and the Ritz Carlton are not potential buyers after all. In fact, a Saturday, November 29, 2008 article by Jennifer Huffman, Register Business Writer, relating to the announcement of a nearby property being up for sale, concludes with the statement, “The Ritz-Carlton project is currently under design and looking for financing.” Incidentally, this latter statement confirms my remark in my Part One analysis and assessment, that the Ritz Carlton partnership was having financial problems.

There can be no doubt that bankruptcy is eminent for COPIA and all that its senior executives can attempt to do is put a favorable spin on a dying concept and complex. I caution, “Buyer beware!”

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