Beam to buy Lewiston-based Pinnacle Vodka for about $605M

Workers at White Rock Distilleries in Lewiston inspect some of their product in this 2011 file photo. (Photo courtesy White Rock Distilleries)
Workers at White Rock Distilleries in Lewiston inspect some of their product in this 2011 file photo. (Photo courtesy White Rock Distilleries)
Posted April 23, 2012, at 9:11 a.m.
Last modified April 23, 2012, at 7:49 p.m.
Product photo of Pinnacle Vodka.
Courtesy of www.pinnaclevodka.com
Product photo of Pinnacle Vodka.

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Beam Inc. said Monday that it has agreed to buy the Pinnacle Vodka and Calico Jack rum brands, along with other related assets, for $605 million in cash, from Lewiston-based White Rock Distilleries.

Beam, which makes Jim Beam bourbon, Courvoisier cognac and Sauza tequila, said the addition of Pinnacle will boost its presence in the large and growing vodka category and increase the company’s overall shareholder value.

The deal includes the brands as well as the bottling facility and work force in Lewiston, a company spokeswoman told the Bangor Daily News.

“We definitely, as part of the terms of the deal of the acquisition, are acquiring the bottling operation in Lewiston — that plant, along with approximately 180 workers there,” said Paula Erickson, Beam vice president of global communications and public relations. “Once the transaction closes in the second quarter, those assets in terms of the bottling operations and the folks who work there will become members of the Beam family.”

Erickson said Beam planned to keep bottling the brands in Lewiston “for the foreseeable future.” In a Beam release, the spirits company noted that Pinnacle’s growth is broad-based across its product line and its unflavored and flavored variants each have achieved the 1 million case threshold. Pinnacle’s unflavored vodka was the U.S. market’s fastest-growing nonflavored imported vodka in 2011, the release said.

That growth played into Beam’s plans to continue operations in Lewiston, Erickson said.

“Pinnacle is a brand that’s obviously growing so quickly,” she said. “To do anything otherwise in terms of the overall operations there would not be a prudent business decision.”

Several other brands are included in the deal, said Erickson. White Rock has other operations besides the Lewiston plant and continues to operate as a stand-alone business, Erickson said.

White Rock’s top executives did not return requests for more information and a receptionist said the company had no comment to make.

Pinnacle’s 2012 sales volumes are expected to exceed 3 million 9-liter cases and it’s one of the largest imported vodka brands in the United States. It makes both unflavored and flavored variations, including a line of whipped dessert flavored vodkas, Beam said.

In a Beam release on the deal, Paul Coulombe, CEO of White Rock Distilleries, said, “We’ve built Pinnacle into the fastest-growing spirits brand in the U.S., and I’m pleased to see it find a home at Beam, a fast-growing spirits leader committed to building great brands. I’m confident the team at Beam will utilize their tremendous reach, scale and passion to take Pinnacle to even greater heights and establish it as one of the spirits industry’s truly iconic vodka brands. Everyone at White Rock can be very proud of what we’ve built and very excited about where Pinnacle is headed in the future.”

Beam said it doesn’t expect the acquisition to affect its 2012 earnings, but said it will boost its 2013 results by between 5 cents and 10 cents per share in 2013 and more in the next year and beyond. The company said it also expects the deal to result in cost savings that should exceed 20 percent of the brand’s sales.

“We’re continuing to invest smartly in great brands and attractive categories, and Pinnacle plays to our strengths,” said Beam President and CEO Matt Shattock in the release. “With our plans to substantially increase brand investment in Pinnacle, plus our marketing and innovation capabilities and our global distribution assets, we look forward to taking Pinnacle to the next level and establishing Beam as a leader in the sizeable vodka category.

Beam said it plans to finance the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, with either existing credit or new debt, or a combination of both.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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