Metis, the Pacific Northwest’s leading M&A advisory firm specializing in the hospitality and beverage alcohol industries, today announced it has advised Walla Walla-based Abeja in two transactions concerning the sale of both the winery and The Inn.
A new ownership group with local ties, which includes Columbia Hospitality CEO and founder John Oppenheimer, Arnie Prentice of USI Kibble & Prentice, as well as Ken and Ginger Harrison, who founded Abeja in 2000, has purchased The Inn and vineyard assets. John Oppenheimer, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality, is the new majority owner of the The Inn and vineyards. Columbia Hospitality has been retained to manage and operate The Inn and property.
In a simultaneous transaction, Ken and Ginger Harrison welcomed a group of local investors, including Arnie Prentice, as new partners to the continuing operations of the Abeja winery business. Abeja founder Ken Harrison will remain a significant equity partner in the winery. All employees of Abeja have been retained, including longtime innkeeper Mary Besbris. Winemakers Daniel Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler will continue to oversee winemaking operations on the property.
The Inn at Abeja and Abeja winery were founded in 2000 by Ken and Ginger Harrison, who carefully renovated the century-old farmstead to create the remarkable estate, which is home to private cottages, a working winery, vineyards, creeks, gardens, wildlife, and spectacular views of the Blue Mountains. The focus of the Abeja winery is to produce world-class cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, along with small amounts of merlot, cabernet franc, viognier, and syrah. Together, Abeja winery and The Inn form a unique property at the heart of the Walla Walla wine country community. The new arrangements will allow both businesses to work in tandem to further enhance their offerings to both guests and wine collectors.
“It was a pleasure working with Erik and his team at Metis. They were able to find the right partners and help us structure a very complex and creative transaction with utmost professionalism and confidentiality,” said Ken Harrison, founder of Abeja. “We elected to partner with John and Columbia Hospitality not only because they are the absolute best operating partner with unparalleled hospitality expertise, but because we believe they share our dedication to preserving the Abeja culture and commitment to excellence guests and wine collectors have come to expect.”
“Abeja is such a uniquely special place in Walla Walla, I knew that we needed to find the right partner for Ken who not only respected the history of the property but had a strong vision and the deep experience necessary to carry it into the future,” said Erik McLaughlin, managing partner of Metis. “We knew how important culture was to Ken, and that any buyer would have to share his vision for Abeja’s people, both the customers and employees. The way Ken and John connected from the very first meeting, we knew we had found the right partner.”
Since founding Columbia Hospitality in 1995, CEO John Oppenheimer has steadily and carefully grown its portfolio, creating one of the largest hospitality management companies based in the Northwest, including iconic properties such as Salish Lodge and Spa, The Heathman Hotel Kirkland, and Friday Harbor House. Columbia Hospitality properties are renowned for creating exceptional experiences for their guests, founded on meaningful and long-term relationships with their clients.
“Abeja is a special place already, and we’re looking forward to investing our resources and expertise to create even greater experiences for Abeja’s guests,” said John Oppenheimer. “Having worked with Erik at Metis in the past, we knew right away that it was a viable and interesting opportunity to expand our growing portfolio of luxury properties. Everything we have seen since from Ken, his team, and the property have only confirmed and increased our excitement about Abeja.”
Metis, an Exvere company, advises Pacific Northwest businesses on capital transactions including mergers, acquisitions, and recapitalizations. With offices in Seattle, Walla Walla, and the Willamette Valley, Metis offers concentrated experience and expertise in the Pacific Northwest hospitality, wine, and beverage alcohol industries. For more information about Metis, please visit www.metisnw.com.
Abeja’s beautifully restored century-old farmstead provides the perfect setting for extraordinary winemaking and world-class hospitality. Meticulous attention to detail defines Abeja’s award-winning, limited-release wines crafted from estate grapes and acclaimed Washington vineyards. The Inn at Abeja provides guests with a tranquil respite from their busy lives in the heart of wine country. For more information about Abeja, please visit www.abeja.net.
About Columbia Hospitality
Columbia Hospitality (Columbia) is a Seattle-based hospitality management and consulting company that was established in 1995 by founder and CEO John Oppenheimer. Columbia’s growing portfolio includes award-winning hotels, public and private golf facilities, conference centers, distinctive venues, and residential properties. Columbia creates exceptional experiences for guests and team members while achieving phenomenal results for property owners. With over 20 years of proven success in management, Columbia has also consulted on over 100 hospitality projects worldwide, delivering a high level of customized service to partners and investors. For more information about Columbia and to view the entire portfolio visit www.columbiahospitality.com.