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Ex-chief in Whyte & Mackay race

Beard: Action time

London, April 13: The former boss of Whyte & Mackay is fronting a takeover bid for the 160-year-old Scotch whisky maker.

John Beard, a veteran drinks industry executive, has teamed up with Lion Capital, the private equity firm, just six months after leaving Whyte & Mackay.

A sale of the Glasgow-based company, which owns the Dalmore and Jura single malt brands and whisky liqueur Glayva, was ordered on competition grounds.

The drinks giant Diageo acquired it last year as part of its swoop on India’s United Spirits but the UK Office of Fair Trading said Bell’s whisky, a Diageo label, and Whyte & Mackay’s own label and branded blended whisky will control too much of the market.

Beard left last August after four years at the helm. Industry sources said his knowledge of the business could give Lion, which used to own Orangina, the edge over rival suitors.

The private equity firm can also call on the expertise of Javier Ferran, one of its partners, who is the former chief executive of Bacardi.

Several overseas drinks producers have lodged bids, including: Russia’s SPI, owner of Stolichnaya vodka; Thai Beverage; Italy’s Campari; and private equity groups KKR and TPG.

Earlier, former Whyte & Mackay chief executive Vivian Imerman had expressed interest in buying the whisky assets back from Diageo.

Imerman, chairman of investment firm Vasari and once dubbed “The Man from Del Monte” after leading a turnaround at the tinned fruit company, had sold Whyte & Mackay to United Spirits in 2007 for 595 million ($972.62 million).

Immerman was CEO prior to Beard.

Whyte & Mackay owns the Invergordon distillery, with a capacity of 40 million litres a year, and four malt whisky distilleries in Scotland.

Final bids, expected to be in the 350 million to 400 million range, are due this week. Last year, profits at Whyte & Mackay soared 27 per cent to almost 34 million.

 
 
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