Like many other industries, the liquor trade is rapidly conglomerating into large corporate groups. Names like Diageo, United Spirits Limited, Pernord Ricard, Suntory/Beam and Bacardi account for the lion's share of sales, but right behind them is Gruppo Campari. Headquartered in Milan, the international beverage company started way back in 1860 with the bitter aperitif brand of the same name, but has since grown to incorporate a wide array of names — today Campari owns Aperol, Cinzano, Glen Grand, Skyy Vodka and Wild Turkey, to name just a few. All it was missing was a foothold in the Canadian whisky business, but now it has rectified that hole in its production portfolio with the acquisition of the Forty Creek Distillery in Ontario.
For those unacquainted, Forty Creek Distillery Ltd. is a growing enterprise based in Grimsby, Ontario, producing (amongst other products) Forty Creek Whisky — one of the finest rye whiskies on the market and a growing brand worldwide. Founded in 1992 by John Hall, Forty Creek has gone on to win numerous accolades at spirits competitions and from trade publications around the world with expressions like its Barrel Select, Copper Pot Reserve and Confederation Oak.
Little wonder then, that Forty Creek sold over CAN $34 million in product last year and is expected to near $40 million this year. Based on those earnings, Gruppo Campari has purchased the distillery in its entirety for $185.6 million, to be paid entirely in cash. Founding distiller John Hall will remain chairman and whisky maker once the transaction is completed on June 2, ensuring a smooth transition in ownership and a consistency of quality.
“Today’s deal represents a milestone for myself and the entire Forty Creek team,” says Hall. “I believe this opportunity will further support Forty Creek’s vision to produce unique, quality, handcrafted, Canadian-made spirits. Campari has the global ability to take Forty Creek to the next level. Introducing customers around the world to my whisky is a dream come true. I am very excited to continue to devote my time to whisky making at Forty Creek distillery, continuing my whisky journey and exploring my passion for additional Forty Creek whisky expressions.”
Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz elaborated:
“With Forty Creek Distillery, producer of the award winning Forty Creek range of premium Canadian whiskies, we are once again leveraging our acquisition framework in a very disciplined and consistent manner for long-term growth. Via the entry to the large and growing Canadian Whisky segment this acquisition further increases our exposure to the highly attractive brown spirits category whilst continuing to enhance our premium portfolio. Moreover, the addition of FCD will enable us to further build our critical mass in key North American markets, providing us with a strong market position in Canada and positioning us for further growth in our core US market. At the same time, our international route to market will also enable the Forty Creek whisky brand to grow faster out of its core North American market. Lastly, through this acquisition we will also be able to internalise key activities in the Canadian market.”