Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Brown-Forman Said to Consider Finlandia Sale Amid Whiskey Push

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Brown-Forman Corp., the maker of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey and other spirits, is considering a sale of its Finlandia vodka brand, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based distiller is weighing the move as part of a broader effort to focus on its whiskey business, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The deliberations are at an early stage and may not lead to a sale, the people said.

Brown-Forman first acquired a 45 percent stake in Finlandia in 2000 and an additional 35 percent in 2002. The company agreed to purchase the rest of the business in 2004 from Altia Corp. for 46.8 million euros ($61 million at the time of purchase). In total, the company spent more than $200 million acquiring the vodka brand.

Brown-Forman’s whiskey brands, which include Old Forester and Woodford Reserve bourbons, are benefiting from a surge in U.S. demand for the dark spirit. Whiskey is estimated to have overtaken vodka as the world’s most popular spirit last year, according to data from Euromonitor. That’s spurred Brown-Forman to prune its roster of brands to focus almost exclusively on whiskey and tequila.

Phil Lynch, a spokesman for Brown-Forman, declined to comment.

Last month, the company announced it was re-entering the single malt Scotch category by acquiring the BenRiach Distillery Co. That deal followed a move in January to sell Brown-Forman’s Southern Comfort and Tuaca liqueurs to Sazerac Co.

— With assistance by Jennifer Kaplan

(Updates with original Finlandia purchase price in third paragraph.)
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