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Issue 97 - Rediscovering America

Whisky Magazine Issue 97
July 2011


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Rediscovering America

Charles K. Cowdery looks at the changing state of play for the global drinks giant

Last December Fortune Brands, parent company of Beam Global Spirits and Wine, announced that it was spinning off its businesses outside of the distilled spirits industry to become a ‘pure play.' That's Wall Street-speak for a company whose business is entirely in one market sector.
Most publicly -owned companies today are pure play. Diversified conglomerates like Fortune—which owned Moen, Master Lock, Titleist, FootJoy, and many other unrelated businesses—are considered to be dinosaurs.
Fortune says the conversion will take about a year and so far it has proceeded on schedule.
As soon at it was announced, many industry observers speculated that the new company's life span will be short. They saw acquisition fodder, specifically for Diageo, where they detected a gaping portfolio hole into which Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey would fit nicely.
“We're always looking at possible acquisitions and when opportunities arise, we'll be interested,” is all Yvonne Briese, vice president marketing, Whisky, Diageo NA, will say about the speculation.
One assumes the folks at Beam Inc. (Fortune's new name) will have other ideas.
It's easy to see that Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's are the only American whiskeys big enough to join Diageo's critical ‘strategic brands' club with the likes of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, José Cuervo, Tanqueray, and Crown Royal.
‘Strategic' is a euphemism for ‘big, premium, and global.' Talisker, for example, is premium...

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