Diners Club director and Mad Man extraordinaire Reg Lascaris has emerged as the Rupert Murdoch of SA food and wine publishing. The bombshell that Bot River foodie JP Rossouw (below) is the new publisher of the Platter sighted wine guide is overshadowed by the revelation that his own eponymous restaurant guide is “now part of the Diners Club family.” JP shares initials with Johann Rupert, but that is where the similarities end.
Foodies will be wondering what happened to the Old Mutual connection as OM reportedly used to pay JPR the big bucks with sums like R300,000 bandied about. And that was several years ago. JPR was to OM’s food profile what impresario Michael Fridjhon is to their wine offering, without a bowtie to avoid confusion between the two pundits. Now he’s become a Standard Bank salaryman. Is this Standard’s revenge on Nedbank (owner of OM) for staging a wildly successful Cape Winemakers Guild Auction last Saturday?
Platter’s own “where to eat in the Winelands” pages were always a joke as it was a pay-to-play scenario that fooled no one. With a professional foodie in the publisher’s La-Z-Boy recliner, perhaps some credibility can return to the kitchen.
Reg is one of those chairs on the Boekenhoutskloof label, a Platter winery of the year for 2012, and is reported to be a major shareholder in distribution octopus Vinimark which supplies wine to scores of restaurants which appreciate good reviews by people like JPR. Reg and his ad agencies can now offer them a one stop shop for media requisites bringing much needed efficiencies into SA food and wine.
As wines are evaluated sighted for Platter, the potential for conflicts of interest is explosive. The press release emphasises the importance of Reg, nicknamed Biggie Smalls, by insiders. For JPR is introduced as “the restaurant columnist for Business Day after gaining experience as an advertising copywriter at agencies including TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris and Net#work BBDO, both locally and in New York City.” Independence of SA food and wine columnists has never been a prerequisite.
Could Platter be looking for a new editor next? For the obvious candidate for publisher was Cathy van Zyl MW, wife of editor Phil. As one of only two MWs in SA (the best one, Remington Norman, resigned his) she would have brought a much needed gravitas to the oft-times too fluffy and inconsistent guide. Let’s hope those golden handcuffs Standard Bank shareholders snapped on Phil will be strong enough to keep him tied down to his La-Z-Boy!
And quite how SA wine and restaurant owners will react to this concentration of media power in the hands of Reg is awaited with baited breath. Will Meridian take this lying down. And what of Distell, who do their own distribution. The reaction of Koos Bekker in particular is crucial as Reg is challenging his Eat Out franchise on the very day it announced the nominees for its annual Top Ten restaurant awards.
Is the clashing of the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year awards function on November 30 with the previously announced Du Toitskloof Winewriter of the Year Awards a foretaste of harder balls to come? Sources say the clash is punishment for Du Toitskloof refusing to allow Diners Club to sponsor the new wine writing competition when Standard Bank, owners of Diners Club, came on board as co-sponsors. Which sent the DC marketing poppie back to Jo’burg in floods of tears.
Reg’s own Franschhoek competition, sponsored by another of his brands Porcupine Ridge, was sabotaged by the shockingly unprofessional behaviour of rogue judge and radio personality John Mayhem (surely Maythem? ed.) who acted like one of those sharp quills that make porcupines such tricky rodents. A sign of things to come in SA food and wine writing or has the countdown to the implosion of Platter started?