Fortune Brands May Spin Off Golf, Home and Security Businesses, WSJ Says

Fortune Brands Inc., the maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Titleist golf balls, may split into as many as three separate businesses, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The home and security unit could be spun off to shareholders and the same may be done for the golf division while Fortune Brands would continue as a publicly traded liquor company, the Journal reported yesterday, citing people briefed on the plan. An announcement may come as soon as today, it said.

Activist investor William Ackman, who previously pushed for change at Target Corp. and Wendy’s International Inc., disclosed an 11 percent stake in Fortune Brands two months ago. The Deerfield, Illinois-based company hired Credit Suisse Group AG and Centerview Partners for advice ahead of meetings with Ackman, four people with knowledge of the matter said in October, declining to be named because the talks were private.

Before Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management LP disclosed its stake Oct. 8, Fortune Brands shares had lost a quarter of their value since Chief Executive Officer Bruce Carbonari took on the role in January 2008. Pershing is the biggest investor in Fortune Brands, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Fortune Brands fell 0.5 percent to $61.15 in New York trading yesterday, giving it a market value of $9.3 billion.

Clarkson Hine, a spokesman for Fortune Brands, did not return a call and e-mails after regular business hours.

Fortune Brands gets about 45 percent of sales from its home and security unit, including Moen faucets and Therma-Tru doors. The division contributed 17 percent of operating income in 2009.

The liquor unit, whose brands also include Courvoisier cognac and Effen vodka, is its most profitable business, with earnings of $485 million on sales of $2.5 billion last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Fenner in Melbourne at rfenner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Longid at flongid@bloomberg.net

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