AN AMERICAN company which claims that Cooley Distillery and its owners, Jim Beam Inc, breached a long-term contract for the supply of Michael Collins Irish whiskey has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in the New York Federal District Court alleging unfair competition and tortious interference.
The lawsuit, taken by Sidney Frank Importing Company, Inc. claims Beam and Cooley Distillery breached a long-term contract that Sidney Frank had with Cooley Distillery for the supply of Michael Collins Irish whiskey.
In a statement outlining the claim, Sidney Frank said: 'In 2006, independent and family-owned Sidney Frank Importing Company entered into a long-term supply contract with Cooley Distillery, which was then the last independent, Irish-owned distillery in Ireland, to launch award-winning Michael Collins Irish whiskey.
'Sidney Frank Importing Company and Cooley Distillery enjoyed six years of a mutually beneficial relationship, during which time Sidney Frank Importing Company invested heavily to position the Michael Collins brand for long-term success in the rapidly growing Irish whiskey market.
'In January of 2012, Beam acquired Cooley Distillery and has since refused to honour its existing contract and engaged in wrongful behaviour in efforts to eliminate Michael Collins Irish Whiskey as a competitor in the market.
'We at Sidney Frank Importing Company are saddened that we had to take this drastic step against an industry member. More than seven years of sweat equity and many millions of dollars have been invested to build the Michael Collins brand into a current and future success.
'We are dismayed that Beam and Cooley Distillery chose not to honour the long-term contract Sidney Frank Importing Company had in place and rather chose to engage in a scheme of unfair competition and tortious interference to eliminate Michael Collins Irish Whiskey in the marketplace'.
Sidney Frank Importing Company is asking for compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial by a jury but believed to exceed $100 million and for punitive damages
A statement from Beam yesterday said: 'We have been in commercial discussions with Sidney Frank regarding this matter and while we don't discuss the details of matters in litigation, we are confident in our position and that we will prevail'.