Wally’s Wine Signals Plan to Expand Into Auction Market in U.S.

Wally’s Wine & Spirits, a 45-year-old Los Angeles wine store which changed ownership last month, has signaled plans to set up a New York-based auction business.

The move comes after Maurice Marciano, owner of a boutique winery in Napa Valley, California, and his brother Paul, co-founders of apparel brand Guess? Inc. (GES), bought Wally’s Wine with partner Christian Navarro last month from founder Steve Wallace.

The expansion plan is being developed as traditional auction houses have built up retail and online businesses, increasing competition. Christie’s started Internet auctions in the U.S. last year while Sotheby’s (BID) now has a wine retail arm.

“We’re going to fill the pipeline with only the best product,” Navarro, president of Wally’s, said by phone. “It does involve investment in infrastructure.”

The move by Wally’s will challenge established auctioneers in the U.S., including Acker Merrall & Condit Company Inc., Christie’s International Plc, Sotheby’s, Zachys and Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart Wine Co.

Wally’s is hiring Michael Jessen, formerly head of Zachys auction division, as president and chief executive officer of Wally’s Auctions, according to an e-mailed statement. It’s also bringing in Julia Gilbert, auction director of White Plains, New York-based Zachys, as managing director for auctions.

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