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With over 30+ years in the wine and spirits industry and an exceptional career leading companies in South America and France, Venezuelan-born and raised Maggie Henríquez, CEO of Krug Champagne, is admired as a business leader and an exceptional woman. Dressed in a classic navy blue suit—she likes and wears Fendi and Dior—and while sipping Krug Champagne, she spoke to us about her life as the head of one of the world’s most iconic champagne houses, how she made it to the top, and her life’s choices and concerns.
I had the pleasure of sharing a glass of Krug with Maggie in Miami, who when not traveling the world is at Krug’s headquarters in Champagne, France, managing the house’s international operations. One may ask how she made it to the top in the highly competitive world of wines and spirits. She is the first Hispanic woman to hold a position of this prestige in the industry. “It was a mixture of coincidences,” says Maggie, “I’ve always enjoyed what I do, every minute of my life, I never complain and I don’t like people who complain so combined with lots of dedication, compromise, and hard work, that is how I made it.”
The wine industry was not Maggie Henriquez’s first career choice, but it was part of the family tradition. “My dad was the director of Morris E. Curiel group Macosarto, in the cosmetics division, which also distributed wine and spirits. I started working with him in the systems department because I am a systems engineer, and at the time most systems didn’t work. Apparently, I did a good job and in 1982, at a very young age, they asked me to be in charge of all systems for this company. In 1986, I wanted a change to the world of wine and spirits and I got it.” Since then, she has been in the industry with one exception. “In 1995, I left to Harvard—[Maggie has an Advanced Management degree from the prestigious university]—to study and update my career, and I was then recruited by Nabisco Foods Mexico.” It was a good decision at the time because I was alone with my two boys who were 11 and 15 and this was an industry that I could share with them. They would participate in the events; imagine it was all about cookies and kids’ foods.” After that, she received an offer to lead the Moët Hennessy house in Argentina. Her career at Nabisco and the way she overturned the billing efforts in the middle of a crisis was the determinant factor in the offer.
Maggie defines the wine and spirits world as “full of history and tradition, an industry hard to leave behind.” She remembers that from a very young age, she would have a sip of Moët Chandon on New Year’s Eve, which would eventually develop her curiosity for this business. But she immediately clarifies that her favorite drink in the world is Krug Champagne. “I never get bored of it.”
Henríquez describes her arrival in Paris as a hard period of adaptation away from her native Venezuela. “But it wasn’t because of the city, it was the business moment, I couldn’t solve what I set out to do in Krug right away. Krug is full of history and luxury and that was the challenge, to communicate that.” She adds, “in real luxury, communication is totally related to the brand’s history and the connection to its founders.” Maggie merges easily into the Parisian scene, rides her bicycle around the city, including to the train station from where she shuttles to Champagne daily.
When speaking about her hometown in Caracas, Venezuela she sounds a bit nostalgic. “I wanted to leave my apartment, horizontal—meaning the day she left this world. I thought I never wanted to leave Venezuela. But I did.” And she did it to keep searching for her success. “For women, and for Hispanic women like me, the recommendation is to take on opportunities. We have everything that companies look for now in a business leader, we have negotiating skills, family values, tradition, women bring this innately. And that is a huge plus. We have a lot of emotional balance that companies need today.”
She describes her key to success as freedom. “I have a free relationship with my profession because I also have my children. They grew up understanding the value of my work and they are my source of satisfaction, it is not only my profession. And at the same time, I have a very free relationship with my sons as well, because they are not the only source of satisfaction for me. And that feeling of freedom is fabulous.”
Maggie enjoys relaxing at a spa, good wine or champagne and of course, she finishes talking about it. “Every bottle of Krug now is identified by a six digit number in the back label from which you can download the Krug Application from App Store or Google and you can discover all the story of the bottle and in addition to a music selection that goes with every champagne type has been added.”
And she adds. “There are several ways of knowing if you are sipping on good champagne, when you taste it, it flows into your mouth, it is never aggressive, and you feel that it doesn’t separate and goes to the end, it’s like a curved line, comes in, opens and fills your mouth and has a final that unifies.” Without a doubt, the communications strategy of Krug Champagne is one of Maggie Henríquez’s legacies for the house. ■