Foley Acquires Acrobat Brand from King Estate

Foley Family Wines has acquired Oregon wine brand Acrobat from King Estate Winery. King Estate launched Acrobat in 2009, focusing on pinot noir and pinot gris. It was subsequently the fastest Oregon wine brand ever to hit the 100,000-case milestone. Sales for the brand are anticipated to exceed 150,000 cases in 2018, per a release.

King Estate decided to sell Acrobat in order to reaffirm its flagship family brand, King Estate, which it considers the “centerpiece of [its] future,” says ceo Ed King.

King Estate split off Acrobat into its own division in 2014, complete with its own winery, warehousing and winemaking team. King Estate confirmed to WSD, Acrobat’s winemaking facility and warehouses were not part of the sale.

This purchase lines up with FFW’s strategy to expand its Oregon offerings, and will complement its other Oregon brand The Four Graces, according to FFW president Hugh Reimers. The company has nearly 60 total wine brands including Banshee, Dashwood, Firestone Vineyard, Lincourt Vineyards, Sebastiani among others.

MAST-JAGERMEISTER PUSHES BACK ON FRANCHISE LAWSUIT IN MISSOURI

In February, Mast-Jagermeister notified its distributor network that it intended to consolidate its US footprint with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. Mast-Jager’s Missouri distributor, Major Brands, promptly filed suit against both the supplier and SGWS, alleging violation of Missouri franchise law [see WSD 02-13-2018]. Major Brands argues Mast-Jager did not establish the “good cause” necessary for termination in Missouri.

MOTION TO DISMISS. Mast-Jager responded with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit this month, arguing that MB is not a franchisee of Jagermeister and “has failed to allege facts to demonstrate otherwise,” per Mast-Jager’s attorneys. They characterize the relationship as “nothing more than a run-of-the-mill vendor/vendee relationship” with an oral contract and no specific start or end date, making it terminable by either side.

Mast-Jager says to be qualified as a franchisee, MB would need to show that it “wraps itself with the trade name of [Jagermeister] and relies on [Jagermeister’s] goodwill to induce the public to buy,” per court documents.

At the same time, SGWS filed its own motion to dismiss the case, echoing the issues that Jager brought up. MB alleges SGWS engaged in tortious interference and civil conspiracy, and used “improper means” to instigate Mast-Jager’s decision to terminate its relationship with MB.

SGWS claims “these are pure legal conclusions without any factual support whatsoever,” per the motion to dismiss. The only thing SGWS says MB did prove is the fact that the two companies are competitors.

POTENTIAL PRECEDENT. You may recall, MB was in a similar situation with Diageo in 2013. Diageo terminated its distribution agreement with MB to move over to Glazer’s. The two hashed out the dispute in court for almost two years. Similar to Mast-Jager, Diageo argued it did not have a “community of interest” with MB.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled in June 2013 that the two companies did have a franchise relationship based on Missouri law, but Diageo was not prohibited from taking its business over to Glazer’s. Ultimately, the two settled the case outside of court before the final hearing and jury trial for damages concluded [see WSD 09-23-2014 and 09-18-2014].

HESS FAMILY WINE ESTATES NAMES NEW CEO

Hess Family Wine Estates ceo Timothy Persson is stepping away from day-to-day management and moving on to the chairman role. Current coo John Grant will take the helm as president and ceo, per a release.

As chairman Timothy will focus more on the big picture, building strategic relationships with key accounts and also searching for potential acquisitions. While John will be in charge of the daily management of the company, the commercial front and production activities. He will report to Timothy.

“John has spent the last four years driving process, retooling our route to market and lifting our game overall. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate John. His transition will be seamless,” says Timothy.

SOUTH CAROLINA REINSTATES LIQUOR LICENSE LIMIT

Last year the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the liquor license cap, finding that it was discriminatory and unconstitutional after Total Wine & More challenged the law in court [see WSD 03-30-2017]. But state legislators are still keen on limiting the number of liquor stores in the state and boxing out big retailers like Total Wine.

A new bill, which the House voted on 100-1 on Tuesday, amends the law to keep the cap on liquor stores to three per licensee, but does allow a retailer to open up to three additional locations in counties with more than 250,000 people. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk.

You may recall, Total Wine filed suit against the state in 2014, challenging the cap on liquor store locations. A lower court sided against retailer, but the Supreme Court’s ruling last year overturned that decision.

Total Wine has had a lot of success in its fight to change state laws, swaying legislation in their favor in eight of the 20 states they operate in [see WSD 02-27-2018]. And it seems like the fight isn’t over in South Carolina.

ILLINOIS RETAILER LOSES LIQUOR LICENSE THANKS TO INTERSTATE SHIPPING SCHEME

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) continues its crackdown on illegal interstate shipping. Last week the ILCC revoked the liquor license from on-premise retailer Club Suavee after a state inspector found that the retailer had imported 45 liters of spirits from neighboring state Indiana without paying taxes, per a local publication.

The agency also suspended an off-premise retailer’s liquor license for 10 days and fined them $10,000 for bringing in spirits from Indiana.

You may recall, this issue started when the state’s distributors banded together calling for an investigation into Columbia Liquors for the same issue [see WSD 12-19-2017]. The US Secret Service and the Illinois Department of Revenue seized nearly $1 million of assets from the store’s owners Sam and Dipti Patel. The US filed suit against them in September and the case is still ongoing.

WSD BRIEFS:

UNION WINE CO. RELEASES UNDERWOOD STRAWBERRY COOLER. The strawberry cooler is their newest addition to the canned wine portfolio alongside Underwood The Bubbles, Rose Bubbles, Rose, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling Radler, and Get It Girl. The 12-ounce cans will be available in four packs with a suggested retail price of $24.

DIAGEO’S CIROC DEBUTS 2018 SUMMER COLLECTION. Ciroc is bringing back its Summer Colada expression as part of its Summer Collection alongside Peach and Pineapple. In addition, Ciroc is also bringing on new brand ambassadors including Colombian singer and songwriter Karol G. and entertainer Teyana Taylor and Cassie.

2018 DISTRIBUTOR PRODUCTIVITY SUMMIT EARLY BIRD PRICING. Join us for our Distributor Productivity Summit at the La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, TX July 30 – July 31, 2018. Yes, it will be hot, but there are several pools outside and inside the A/C works great. Plus, you can learn best practices and the latest in technology for running a crisp 21st century wine and spirits distribution operation — go home back to the plant being a hero. Early Bird Discount ends April 30. Register and learn more here.

Until tomorrow,
Your Editors

Emily Pennington – emily@winespiritsdaily.com
Sarah Barrett – sarah@winespiritsdaily.com

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” — Havelock Ellis

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