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News Briefs for March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014

•Total Wine co-founder David Trone is pushing back against opposition to his company’s expansion in Minnesota, publicly blaming liquor store competitors in the state for blocking the retailer’s Bloomington store opening. In a recent interview with the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Trone said liquor store owners had “chosen to compete by trying to stop our entry into the market” in an effort to “keep their high prices.” Total Wine’s Bloomington store—which would mark the group’s second Minnesota outpost—has been delayed since November, following the Bloomington City Council’s decision to further review Total Wine’s legal history before granting license approval. Total Wine’s first Minnesota store, meanwhile, is slated to open in Roseville (which, like Bloomington, is located 5-to-10 miles away from Minneapolis) on March 13, bringing its footprint to more than 100 stores across 16 states.

•Suntory’s pending $16 billion acquisition of Beam Inc. has been approved by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which says it will grant an early termination of the waiting period used to review such deals. Beam CEO Matt Shattock said the notice was “another important step toward completing the acquisition of Beam.” The transaction, which is on track to close next month, is still subject to European Union regulatory clearance, the approval of Beam shareholders (which will vote in a special meeting March 25) and other customary closing conditions. Meanwhile, Suntory may already be eyeing up its next overseas spirits acquisition. Multiple outlets are reporting that the Japanese company is in talks to acquire a stake of more than 20% in Radico Khaitan—a significant player in India’s spirits market with brands such as8PM whisky and Old Admiral brandy—in a deal worth around $100 million.

•Brown-Forman has unveiled the 2014 limited edition Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle. Rolling out this month, this year’s commemorative offering features artwork by Louisville-based artist David O. Schuster, which depicts horses, jockeys and the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby race. The 2014 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle will be available nationwide, priced at around $43.99 a 1-liter. Woodford Reserve has served as the official Bourbon sponsor of the Kentucky Derby for 16 years.

•VeeV Spirits COO Bryan Crowley has added the title of president of the company, amid ongoing growth for VeeV’s namesake açai liqueur and premixed cocktail offshoot VitaFrute. Crowley, a 17-year food and beverage veteran, joined VeeV in June of 2012. In other company news, VeeV says it will raise its core liqueur from 60 proof to 70 proof in a bid to compete more directly with vodka, beginning this spring. Los Angeles-based VeeV has reported strong sales of late, particularly for VitaFrute, which is present in a host of national accounts, including Kroger, Safeway, Walmart, CVS, Whole Foods and Costco.

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