From high profile celeb brands to multi-billion-dollar company buy-outs, the drinks industry is a hotbed of activity when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. This week, MoM takes a look at some of the whoppers from the past ten years and asks, ‘they paid HOW MUCH?’

First up, a trip back in time to 2014. Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ was still top of the pops. And who else was happy? Well, the folks at Suntory probably were. In January that year, they announced a $16bn deal to buy Beam. The Beam company came with a goodie bag of spirits, including its namesake Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Courvoisier Cognac, to name a few. They joined Suntory’s powerhouse Japanese whisky brands Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki. Suntory time, indeed.


Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz  juggling oranges

They paid HOW MUCH?

In 2015, one of the biggest deals in corporate history – let alone the drinks industry – came in the form of Anheuser-Bush InBev’s move to acquire fellow global brewer SABMiller. The £79bn deal took a year to iron out and it gave ABInBev a truly global reach [including acquiring the Atom Group, Master of Malt’s parent company in 2018]. It finally closed on 10 October 2016. And Asahi picked up a few treasures from the deal, too, agreeing in early 2016 to buy SABMiller’s Grolsch, Meantime and Peroni Nastro Azzuro beer brands for about £2bn. 

Also in 2016, Campari Group lined up a EUR684m deal to buy Marnier-Lapostolle. Among the treasure trove was Cognac-based orange liqueur Grand Marnier. In full-year 2020, the brand accounted for 6% of the group’s sales and additions Cuvée Révelation and Quintessence concluded the full relaunch of Grand Marnier since the purchase.

CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said at the time: “With Grand Marnier, we add a premium and distinctive brand to our global priorities portfolio, thus driving richer product mix, and we further consolidate our position as the leading purveyor of premium liqueurs and bitter specialties worldwide.”

In fact, Campari might be one to watch in the coming months, too, as recent reports suggest Kunze-Concewitz is once again on the acquisition trail. 

2016 was a busy year for Sazerac Company, too, as the US firm took control of Southern Comfort, among other brands, in a $543.5m deal with Brown-Forman. The acquisition of Southern Comfort by Sazerac was hailed as a bit of a homecoming, since both hail from New Orleans.

George Clooney Casamigos

The two amigos, George Clooney and Rande Gerber

Clooney tunes

The following year, in a sunny June 2017, Hollywood mega star George Clooney amassed a bit more wealth, when he – along with bar and restaurant owner Rande Gerber and Discovery Land Company CEO Mike Meldman – sold the Casamigos Tequila brand to Diageo for up to $1bn.

The trio launched the brand in 2013 and at the time of the sale, Gerber said Casamigos “started from a friendship and an idea to create the best tasting, smoothest Tequila as our own house Tequila to drink with friends”.

Anyway, it also started getting pretty big – big enough to draw the attention of Diageo.

At the time of the sale, industry analysts questioned whether the deal was on the expensive side… However, in 2018, Casamigos Mezcal made an appearance and Casamigos became Casamigos Spirits Co. So, they didn’t pay $1bn just for a Tequila after all. MoM wonders what else will come out of the Casamigos Spirits Co stable…

Agave go-go

Sticking with all things agave, and in 2018, Bacardi took over Tequila giant Patrón. Reports suggested that the deal valued the brand at $5.1bn. Bacardi had played the long game with Patrón, having first bought a 30% stake in the business back in 2008.

“We are delighted to welcome the team from Patrón into the Bacardi family,” said Mahesh Madhavan, CEO of Bacardi Limited, at the time of the deal. “We continue to be inspired by their passion, culture of caring, attention to detail, and unwavering commitment to quality. Our promise is to uphold these qualities to ensure the product integrity, innovative marketing, and commercial success of Patrón tequila for years to come.”

In the same year, Pernod Ricard made moves in agave, too, with a smaller deal to buy the rest of Avión Tequila – it had held a significant majority stake in the brand since 2014.

It's Ryan Reynolds!

It’s Ryan Reynolds, gin salesman extraordinaire

Gin takes flight

In 2019, all things gin were in full swing, and Brown-Forman made a move for Fords Gin. Then, in 2020, Diageo made the headlines with another celebrity purchase – this time it was Aviation Gin, co-owned by Ryan Reynolds, who retains an interest in the brand. The deal was worth up to $610m – an initial payment of $335m, followed by up to $275m, depending on Aviation’s sales performance over the following decade.

The structure of the deal sparked a tongue-in-cheek ‘out of office’ email from Reynolds. It read: 

Thanks for your email. I am currently out of the office but will still be very hard at work selling Aviation Gin. For quite a long time, it seems. In related news, I just learned what an ‘earn-out’ is… And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone I told to go f*** themselves in the last 24 hours. My lawyers just explained how long it takes to achieve an ‘earn-out’… so… turns out I’m not as George Clooney as I thought. The point is, to those listed below, I’m sorry… and I’ll indeed be needing your help in the coming months and years. Thanks in advance!”

The email went on to list several people, including Clooney, the CEO of Diageo and Reynolds’ wife Blake Lively.

This year’s big deals

So far in 2021, we’ve seen many-a drinks giant invest in alcopop-du-jour, hard seltzer. But the deal closest to MoM’s ageing millennial heart is the sale of perry brand Lambrini, to wine company Accolade. If you’re wondering why on earth why, here’s what company CEO Robert Foye said: “Lambrini has such a strong heritage and is loved by British consumers. We are excited about the role the brand will play in our broader strategic growth plans for the UK and Europe.”

Sadly, they declined to disclose financial details of the sale. We’re assuming not Casamigos money.