Favourite dram may slip from Scottish hands as clan quits

Related tags Scotch whisky

Spirits industry shaken as highland Battle lines are drawn

Glenmorangie, owner of the number one brand of single malt whisky in the UK, has hung up a "For sale" sign after members of the founding Macdonald family said they wished to withdraw from the business.

The 111 year-old distiller, founded by Roderick Macdonald and Alexander Muir, is the sixth largest whisky company in the world and the last quoted independent Scottish distiller. It owns the whisky brands Glenmorangie, Glen Moray, Highland Queen, BNJ, Ardbeg and James Martini's along with the ginger wine brand Crabbie's.

Glenmorangie said it was in preliminary discussions with a number of potentially interested parties but would not name them.

According to Alan Gray, whisky analyst at stockbroker Sutherlands, the two front-runners for the company are likely to be US-based Brown-Forman, maker of the Jack Daniels whiskey brand, and Bacardi-Martini, both of which already have close links with Glenmorangie. Brown- Forman distributes Glenmorangie in the US and has a 10% stake in the company while Bacardi is a distributor of the brand in the UK.

"Bacardi already has Scotch whisky interests but doesn't have a major malt brand," said Gray. "It would be quite attractive."

He also said the company's recent purchase of Grey Goose vodka signalled Bacardi's intention to move into different spirits. "It does have ambitions to get even bigger and is trying to become a spirits company rather than just a rum company."

Other contenders could include Diageo, William Grant and Pernod Ricard although competition regulations could hamper such bids, said Gray. Allied Domecq may also be in the running, despite the fact that it sold the Ardbeg distillery to Glenmorangie in 1997.

The company is valued at £250-300m, which Gray believes the Macdonald family is likely to achieve because it is the last independent quoted company.

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