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SPI, Campari Reportedly Among Bidders For Whyte & Mackay

March 13, 2014

Whyte & Mackay, the Scotch whisky unit of Diageo-controlled United Spirits Ltd. (USL), is reportedly being eyed by major spirits groups like Stolichnaya owner SPI Group and Gruppo Campari. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reports that private equity groups including Lion Capital and TPG Capital Management are also among the suitors for Whyte & Mackay, which the sources say could sell for around £350 million ($584m). Earlier estimates had pegged Whyte & Mackay’s sale price as high as £450 million ($750m). The final tally will likely hinge on whether the deal ultimately includes the Dalmore and Tamnavulin distilleries. In its offer to U.K. regulators late last year to divest Whyte & Mackay to ease competition concerns in the Scotch whisky market, Diageo proposed to keep those two valuable assets.

Speaking on a conference call following Campari’s yearly results yesterday, company CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said that even after multiple acquisitions over the past year—including its play for Jamaica’s Lascelles deMercado in early 2013 and yesterday’s announced purchase of Canada’s Forty Creek Distillery—the group still has nearly $500 million available for acquisitions. Campari already owns the Glen Grant single malt brand—the world’s fifth-largest at around 300,000 cases, according to Impact Databank—and distributes Suntory’s Bowmore, Glen Garioch and Auchentoshan malts in the U.S., but the latter three brands could leave the Campari America portfolio looking ahead, given Suntory’s pending acquisition of Beam Inc.

SPI Group currently owns no Scotch brands, but has been diversifying beyond its core Stolichnaya vodka business in recent years, acquiring a majority stake in Argentine winery Achaval-Ferrer in 2011 and a significant stake in Italy’s Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Castelgiocondo and Luce della Vite estates in 2006. With its newly-formed Stoli USA unit now in operation, the Luxembourg-based SPI may see opportunity for Whyte & Mackay’s Scotch brands in the U.S.

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