Ex-Secretary of State for Tourism appointed director of Fladgate Partnership company

 In News, Tourism, Wine

Rita Marques has been appointed a director of HILODI – Historic Lodges & Discoveries, a subsidiary of the Fladgate Partnership, a private holding company in the port wine and tourism businesses which she allegedly “benefited” in 2022 while serving as the secretary of State for Tourism.

The former Secretary of State for Tourism, Commerce and Services was dismissed from the Socialist Party government of António Costa a month ago by telephone while overseas. Rita Marques has since accepted a private sector job in the Porto-based company she is said to have “benefitted”. It is illegal for a former minister or secretary of State to exercise functions for a private company under Portuguese law for a period of three years.
However, Rita Marques says her return to the private sector is “legitimate” despite the fact that she will now help manage a company to which she provided the “benefit” less than a year ago.
Expresso reports that Compete 2020 provided €5.4million to Fladgate’s flagship World of Wine (WoW) tourism project when Ria Marques was in the government.
Set up by the Portuguese Government, Compete 2020 was a seven-year programme that earmarked European Structural Funds for projects to help Portugal’s companies internationalise or become more competitive, or was set aside for projects that were considered to be of a national or regional importance.
Rita Marques says she knows “nothing” about the eventual (application) of these EU funds. (meaning the specific funds awarded to Fladgate)
“I had nothing to do with matters concerning Compete”, the former secretary of State told Expresso, and denied having anything to do with helping the Fladgate Partnership benefit from EU funding for its World of Wine (WoW) tourism attraction experience in Porto. (See feature article originally published in Essential Business 2021)
According to the news source Observador on Saturday, despite the law prohibiting the acceptance of private contracts for three years, Rita Marques will work for the company for which she granted the status of official tourist attraction for Fladgate’s World of Wine experience (WoW) in Gaia, Porto – now a major tourist attraction in the city. The status brings certain tax and other financial benefits.
In its online edition, weekly newspaper Expresso (also covered by SIC TV news) reported the ex-secretary of State as saying that she was “completely confident in the decisions that she had taken” while serving in the government, as well as the ones she has taken “in the private sector since leaving the government”.
According to the law “the holders of political posts of an executive nature may not exercise functions in private companies for a period of three years counting from the date (their governmental executive function) terminates”.
Rita Marques, who has also held the executive role of CEO at Portugal Ventures – a government supported venture capital agency to support the development and growth of startups — before joining the government in 2019, will work for the Fladgate Partnership company in the areas of hotels and tourism.
The Fladgate Partnership is a holding company that has businesses in Port Wine, tourism and distribution. The original company of the group is Taylor’s Port, which was founded in 1692. However, in 2001 it acquired Croft Port, which was founded in 1588 and celebrated its 430th anniversary in 2018. With its other brands (Fonseca Port and Krohn Port) The Fladgate Partnership is a leading player in producing special category Port, which it sells in over 105 countries.
It has been a pioneer in Port and, more recently, in tourism. The creation of The Yeatman Hotel, which opened in 2010, was arguably the catalyst that started the tourist boom in the city of Porto.

Photo: Joaquim Morgado (ICPT)