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Wilderness Trail Bourbon to be sold to Italy’s Campari at $600 million valuation

Oct. 31, 2022 Updated Mon., Oct. 31, 2022 at 2:44 p.m.

Bottles of Campari are displayed for sale in downtown Milan  on Nov. 17.   (Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)
Bottles of Campari are displayed for sale in downtown Milan  on Nov. 17.  (Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)
By Antonio Vanuzzo and Andy Hoffman Bloomberg

Davide Campari-Milano is buying a majority stake in U.S. bourbon maker Wilderness Trail Distillery, as the Italian aperitif specialist continues its strategy of diversifying and growing through acquisitions.

Campari will purchase an initial 70% of the Kentucky-based distiller for $420 million, according to a statement Monday. The company said it plans to acquire the remaining 30% by 2031. The deal price implies an enterprise value of $600 million.

The move will help the drinks maker “further expand and ‘premiumize’ our bourbon offering, priming it to become Campari Group’s second major leg after the aperitif portfolio,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Kunze-Concewitz said in the statement.

The CEO reiterated in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday that Campari expects half its future growth to come via acquisitions. The U.S. market remains a number-one priority, he said, underscoring the importance of the deal for Wilderness Trail.

“Bourbon and American whiskey is a huge category in the US,” Kunze-Concewitz said. “It’s roughly 13% of the US spirits market and it’s growing very fast.”

European drinks makers have been seeking deals in the US to expand beyond their traditional offerings to include tequila and American whiskeys.

Pernod Ricard recently beefed up its U.S. spirits portfolio, increasing its stake in Sovereign Brands, buying a majority stake in Codigo 1530 tequila and launching a sotol Mexican liquor called Nocheluna.

Addressing inflation and the possible effect on prices, Kunze-Concewitz told Bloomberg that “we’ve taken in selective markets two price rounds,” adding that further increases are possible “if the inflationary pressure continues in terms of raw materials.”

The Aperol maker also said Monday that the purchase price for Wilderness Trail will be paid at the closing and will be funded through a combination of available cash and term loans.

Campari last week reported better-than-expected third-quarter results and confirmed its guidance of flat growth for organic adjusted earnings before interest and taxes.

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