My Life’s Work | Frazer Thompson, CEO, Chapel Down Group

In this weekly series, we meet a Walpole member chief executive to discover what makes them tick, how they define success, and what keeps them awake at night. Today, Frazer Thompson, CEO of English wine maker, Chapel Down discusses how having a team that you can trust can be the best part of the job and how he finds inspiration in the things he cannot do.

Frazer graduated in 1981 and, as a Geordie, soon wound up in beer at Whitbread. At 29, having co-led a team to acquire and integrate the Boddingtons brand and develop a highly successful strategy as a response to the Beer Orders, he was made a director of Whitbread plc. He joined Heineken in 1995 as Global Brand Director for the Heineken trademark. Based in Amsterdam, his global remit was to sell more beer, make more money and build long term value.  He became CEO of Chapel Down in November 2001.

What does British luxury mean to you? 

Wit and worldly wisdom, wedded with contemporaneity and charm.

What’s your vision (for the company)?  

To be England’s most exciting drinks company.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?     

I’m working on it…

How do you define success?     

Going to bed a bit less stupid than I was when I woke

What’s your greatest extravagance?   

Sitting doing nothing.

What do you like most about your job?

The people I work with. Every single one of them. A fantastic team I can trust.


Wine and luxury can attract a lot of people who have nothing to add, just opinion not fact, swagger not style and rudeness not charm.

What has been your greatest regret?    

I have no regrets.

What inspires you?  

Inspiration can come from the art of Caravaggio, the words of Roth or the song of a blackbird. I am inspired by the beauty of things I cannot do.

What was your big break?  

Being given the Boddingtons brand to play with.

What is your guiding principle? 

There is no point in simply being the best. You must be the only person/company/brand who can do what you do.

Which living person do you most admire?      

My wife. I know exactly how tough a gig that is.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?      

Ludicrous. Delicious.

What keeps you awake at night?    


What do you most value in your friends?    

The ability to make me laugh

In a parallel life, what would you be doing? (fantasy job)  

Teacher. Hugely under-valued and in need of refreshment.

What piece of advice would you give someone entering the luxury industry now?

Passion isn’t a word you should ever say of yourself. Earn it. Prove it. Live it. Excite others. Get others to say it of you. And always retain your integrity, humility, dignity and manners.

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