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Southern Comfort to Be Sold by Brown-Forman to Sazerac

  • Fireball maker also gets Tuaca liqueur in $544 million deal
  • Move reflects seller's focus on whiskeys like Jack Daniel's

At Brown-Forman Corp., it’s last call for Southern Comfort.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based company on Thursday said it is selling two liqueurs, Southern Comfort and Tuaca, to Fireball-maker Sazerac Co. for $544 million to focus on its whiskey brands like Jack Daniel’s. The deal is expected to close March 1.

Southern Comfort, which gained fame in the 1960s as the late singer Janis Joplin’s beverage of choice has lost market share over the past few years to flavored whiskeys like Fireball, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kenneth Shea. The brand, acquired by Brown-Forman in 1979, made up 5.2 percent of the liqueur market in 2014, down from 6.3 percent in 2012. 

Meanwhile, whiskey is estimated to have overtaken vodka as the world’s most popular spirit last year, according to data from Euromonitor.

Brown-Forman, which also makes Woodford Reserve bourbon, is stepping away from the two liqueurs to “focus resources on its highest strategic priorities,” according to a statement.

“Both brands played important roles in the Brown-Forman success story, and we will have fond memories of the enjoyment they brought,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Varga said in the statement.

Brown-Forman shares gained 1.3 percent, or $1.23, to $92.74 at the close of trading in New York.

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