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Diageo’s Whyte & Mackay Lures Interest From Former CEO Imerman

Vivian Imerman, the former chairman and chief executive of Del Monte Royal Foods Corp., may offer to buy spirits maker Whyte & Mackay if Diageo Plc is compelled to sell the asset to satisfy U.K. antitrust concerns.

Imerman “has noted Diageo’s reported interest in selling the Whyte and Mackay business,” according to a statement issued today. “If it is decided that Diageo will sell, Mr. Imerman has expressed an interest in buying it back.”

Imerman, who is currently chairman of investment group Vasari Global, was chief executive officer of Whyte & Mackay before its sale to United Spirits Ltd. for 595 million pounds ($972 million) in 2007.

Diageo, the world’s biggest distiller, acquired Whyte & Mackay, which makes Scotch whisky including Jura and The Dalmore, when it bought India’s United Spirits last year for a foothold in emerging markets. The company said Nov. 27 that it has offered to sell most of Whyte & Mackay to assuage concerns expressed by the U.K. Office of Fair Trading that the acquisition could potentially lead to higher prices in the U.K. for blended whisky. Diageo sells whiskies including Bell’s in the U.K. and Johnnie Walker, the world’s biggest Scotch brand.

“Whyte and Mackay would make an important addition to the portfolio of spirits and beer businesses in Africa and Asia where Mr. Imerman has been concentrating his efforts through his company Vasari,” according to the statement. “The W&M brand would be complementary to the strategy of acquiring and growing businesses in these regions to take advantage of rapid consumer growth.”

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