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Bushmills set to be sold to Mexican giant


Bushmills Whiskey

Bushmills Whiskey

Bushmills Whiskey

One of Ireland's best-known whiskey brands has been sold to the Mexican drinks company Jose Cuervo.

The company confirmed the deal today.

"We are immensely proud of these achievements, and while we recognise that today’s announcement does represent a change for Bushmills we are confident that Jose Cuervo - a company with a proven commitment to its people and to valuing the history and heritage of its brands - will continue to nurture Bushmills in the future," said Colin O’Brien, Operations Director, Diageo.

"This transaction represents further progress in Diageo’s strategy to build its presence in the world’s fastest growing markets and to strengthen its global position in tequila”.

The move will give the London drinks firm full ownership of Don Julio tequila in exchange for Bushmills.

The move represents another remarkable development in the once-staid Irish whiskey business.

The business was dominated by Irish Distillers until a few years ago when John Teeling's Cooley Distillery began competing with the French-owned whiskey giant.

Since then, dozens of investors have smaller distilleries while Cooley has changed hands.

Bushmills, which has been based in the same village in Co Antrim since 1608, is the only whiskey distillery belonging to Diageo although the company owns several Scotch whisky brands including Johnnie Walker.

Diageo has suffered regular declines in sales in the European market and is focusing instead on the developing world to chase growth, adding to its portfolio with deals such as the 2011 purchase of Turkey's Mey Icki for roughly $2bn.

The sale of Bushmills would be a further retreat from Ireland after last year's decision to stop brewing Smithwicks in Kilkenny after three centuries.

Reports said Diageo and Jose Cuervo are in advanced talks for a deal that would hand Diageo the 50pc of Don Julio that it does not already own as well as a cash payment.

In return, Diageo would hand over Bushmills to Cuervo.

Exact terms of the expected agreement, which could be announced this week, are still unclear.

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A spokesman for Jose Cuervo declined comment to Reuters. A Diageo spokeswoman also declined comment.

The deal would enable Diageo, the world's biggest maker of spirits, to boost its presence in the high-end tequila segment after its efforts to buy Jose Cuervo outright fell apart nearly two years ago, the 'Wall Street Journal' said.

Jose Cuervo, owned by the Beckmann family of Mexico, and Diageo had a distribution pact that was terminated last year.

Don Julio is an upmarket portfolio of tequilas that is currently seeing sales increases of about 25pc a year, outstripping the growth of Jose Cuervo, the world's biggest tequila brand, the paper said.

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