Appetizers
March 13, 2008
Copia: Chapter Three

Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts is being rattled by another shift in focus and a reshuffling of key personnel.

Friday, Copia directors are to announce formally that the center's president for the past three years, Arthur Jacobus, is leaving, along with the chief of marketing and development for the past four years, Larry Tsai.

"His leadership has been great," says Garry McGuire Jr. of Jacobus. McGuire is Copia's newly named president and CEO. He praised Jacobus for his organizational skills, his ability to raise funds and his efforts to clarify Copia's mission.

"But any organization needs different leadership at different times," notes McGuire, adding that Copia is about to launch an ambitious new effort to become a more proactive presence on the country's food and wine scene.

Negotiations are under way with unspecified potential corporate sponsors to reinvent Copia so visitors can expect a more interactive experience when they visit the center, and the complex also will be developing a greater online presence, possibly involving e-commerce, says McGuire.

McGuire's background is largely in high-tech marketing in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Europe. He recently sold his European marketing company, Gyro International, and stepped down as CEO of Icon Internet Ventures in San Francisco and Paris, which helps luxury brands increase their online presence. (He remains Icon's chairman.)

In its six-year history, Copia has struggled to develop both a cohesive image and an enthusiastic following. Conceived largely by Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi as a vibrant fulcrum to heighten the understanding, appreciation and indulgence of the American culinary arts, it never fulfilled that lofty aspiration.

About 18 months ago it terminated about a third of its staff, slashed its budget by $3 million and sold five of its acres on the edge of downtown Napa. At that time, Jacobus indicated the center henceforth would focus less on food and culture and more on wine.

That's the mission Copia will retain and enhance, says McGuire. Copia still remains $70 million in debt, but it realized a slight profit last year and no additional employe terminations are anticipated, says McGuire. "We're in a real healthy position financially."

Copia officials also are negotiating with a developer to build a boutique hotel that would connect directly to the center and to construct on the site a "lifestyle" shopping center featuring high-end branded merchandise, says McGuire.

Copia officials also announced that they have hired high-profile wine guru Andrea Immer to be the center's first "dean of wine studies." Since the inception of Copia, Peter Marks has been its "senior vice president of wine." Marks is leaving to become "vice president of education" for Constellation Brands Inc., which owns Robert Mondavi Winery, among other producers.

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