As announced in a press release today, Bardstown Bourbon Company has been acquired by a private-equity firm, Pritzker Private Capital. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and according to the press release the management team at BBC will continue to lead that company.
There are a lot more layers to this acquisition environment than what I’ll cover here today. However, I’ll try to quickly hit on a few key points on this deal as well as some trends to look for.
The Chairman of Pritzker Private Capital (PPC) is Tony Pritzker, brother to Illinois governor, J.B. Prtizker. The Pritzker family made their family wealth through the Hyatt Hotel chain. PPC targets family-owned or management-owned companies in the manufactured products or services sector. (While Bourbon enthusiasts don’t think of it that way, whiskey is a “manufactured product”.) PPC also seeks to acquire companies based in North America with strong growth trends. Bardstown Bourbon Company checks all of these boxes.
According to the press release, BBC approached PPC a few years ago to initiate discussions on a possible acquisition. BBC’s growth track record has been impressive on its own having quadrupled capacity since 2016 and, in addition to its own line of products, distills for more than 30 other brands. If PPC’s history is any indication, we can look for the purchase of BBC to be followed by multiple acquisitions in the sector.
For example, PPC acquired a company called Vertellus (a supplier of chemical products) in January of 2021. PPC has made five add-on acquisition to Vertellus since then. That is a significant number of transactions in a relatively short period of time.
So, what kind of activity might we see from the BBC-PPC group going forward? My thoughts here are only conjecture, but the conjecture is half the fun.
One area of activity could be going deeper into the American whiskey market. BBC certainly has intimate knowledge of multiple brands through their contract distilling operations. That creates some natural acquisition targets for BBC.
There are also whiskey distilling operations that fit the PPC profile (family-owned, high-growth) in Kentucky and throughout the United States. Michter’s, Willett, Garrison Brothers are a few that come to mind. Acquisitions outside of the Kentucky market could help expand distribution for BBC and the acquired distilleries.
Another possibility could be the expansion into other lines of spirits. While Heaven Hill’s acquisition of Samson & Surrey came with growing Bourbon brands Few and Widow Jane, the primary targets were likely agave-based brands Mezcal Vago and Tequila Ocho. Those brands gave Heaven Hill entry into the tequila/mezcal market which is the fastest growing spirits segment. Yes, even faster than Bourbon. Much faster, actually.
According to the Distilled Sprits Council, tequila/mezcal grew 21% from 2020 to 2021. That is over 4 times the growth of American whiskey. So, finding an acquisition target in agave spirits would seem like something that would be on the BBC-PPC radar.
It is safe to say that acquisitions by strategic buyers or private equity concerns are here to stay in the whiskey landscape. And, conjecture aside, it will be interesting to watch what happens next following the Pritzker acquisition of Bardstown Bourbon Company. BBC has been making bold moves since their start in 2014. With the resources of Pritzker Private Capital’s deep pockets, we can certainly expect the bold moves to continue and likely at a much more rapid pace.
Please share any thoughts you might have on this or other acquisitions in the whiskey world or what you might think we’ll see down the road. Cheers!