Bruichladdich To Be Sold – Rise And Fall Of An Independent Distiller

by Oliver Klimek on July 10, 2012

Yesterday Mark Reynier, CEO of Bruichladdich, tweeted to the the world that the owners were in “advanced talks with Rémy Cointreau” about the sale of the distillery.

You wouldn’t let such a bomb go off without a solid amount of confidence that the deal will finally be done, but actually the mere acknowledgement of the owners that they are willing to sell Bruichladdich is a blow. The “Progressive Hebridean Distillers” were among the fiercest defenders of independence in the whisky industry. I don’t want to speculate about the reasons, financial problems, greed or simply the wish to retire? We probably will never know. The timing not too long after the successful launch of the Laddie Ten, the new standard expression produced entirely by the team around Mark Reynier and Jim McEwan somehow is fitting. Mission accomplished!

Mark Reynier stated that the operations would go on as before and that no personal changes were going to happen. But I guess I am not the only one to wonder how long a global player like Rémy Cointreau is willing to sustain the high number of employees that the distillery has been rightly proud of. And perhaps Bruichladdich is only the stepping stone into the growing whisky market for RC, if the deal works out, they may consider expanding. Bladnoch looks like an ideal target.

Yet again money has won over passion. Especially Mark Reynier himself was very loud in expressing his passion for independent whisky making, both on the Laddie Blog and on Twitter, and often combined with poison arrows being shot at the big whisky conglomerates. But we see that the loudness is not everything.

Update 23th July 2012:

Today the sale was officially announced. Rémy Cointreau will pay the staggering sum of £58 million for Bruichladdich and promised to keep all emloyees because they plan to double production. Apart from Mark Reynier leaving there are supposed to be no personal changes so far.

Earlier today Mark Reynier had posted a long personal statement on the Bruichladdich blog in which he explained he was outvoted 7 against 1 at the decisive board meeting. He mentioned an initial ‘Braveheart’ spirit when Rémy showed their interest in the distillery, but stated he could not notice this spirit anymore when the decision was taken.

The statement was deleted from the blog only a few hours after publishing, but it can still be found on Mark Reynier’s Facebook profile.

Kudos.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Armin July 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Yes and no. I don’t know the exact ownership distribution at Bruichladdich, but I’m pretty sure Mark wasn’t the only shareholder. He might have been simply outvoted by the other owners.

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Tony July 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I got the impression mark was a small shareholder, he mentioned having to deal with 60 owners in a tweet! He also said that his services will no longer be necessary after the take over. Does not sound like it is his plan!

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Oliver Klimek July 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You could well be right, Tony. But Mark was the voice of Bruichladdich, and the entire philosophy of the company was based on this independence. An end like this unavoidably raises questions.

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Bernard Gutman July 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Would Remy want to lose the voice, the philosophy, or would the wise wise heads there speak to Mark and suggest he stay – give him free reign to make the whisky he wants – but without worrying about the numbers and admin?

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Pieter July 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm

But what if they (let’s say the devoted shareholders) finally get enough money together to start the Port Charlotte distillery? Could be a winning situation for us fanboys.

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John W July 11, 2012 at 4:28 am

Could it be linked to a totally different reading of the future? We know that Bruichladdich would really have their finger on the pulse in relation to the market for single malts, having attacked it from every possible angle over the last ten years–I doubt that Remy would have such insider knowledge of the market, even with the best paid researchers. What Remy C are thinking is the major headlines and larger potential for whisky generally (emerging markets etc…)–witness the expansionist mode of Diageo and Edrington of late. Maybe some in the Bruichladdich camp were fearing a serious downturn/whisky loch situation in single malts (their core business) at a time when the whisky hype globally is still alive and kicking……..in this case, the deal made perfect sense from the Bruichladdich perspective. What is less clear is what attracts Remy C to this deal, when Bruichladdich is clearly going to be a comparitively small niche player in their overall cognac-centred portfolio. Maybe they just felt that missing whisky in their portfolio was just intolerable…..or could the speculation be correct that there is more at work (with links to William Grant coming into the picture as mentioned on some forums). But certainly this news is a kick in the teeth of the resurgent “independents” movement.

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Pieter July 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Well, I don’t believe it will stop after taking over bruichladdich. They probably sold all their champagne to have a go at the whisky market. The whiskymarket is still growing so… Oliver thinks of Bladnoch as one of their next targets, and what about ben nevis, who’s owners are rumoured to be in financial trouble.

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Keith July 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

It’s been reported that if they do buy Bruichladdich, they will only spend a small fraction of the money currently available for expansion. Do they wish to spend all of the money on whisky? If they do then there are some intriguing possibilites. Oliver mentions Bladnoch and yes, they are always being mentioned as a takeover possibility, but remember, when Diageo sold to Raymond they imposed a very small limit on the annual production capacity. Would this remain?

Otherwise what possibilities are there? Well, Ben Nevis is a good suggestion, but how about Glen Moray & Starlaw from La Martiniquaise? Or even Glen Catrine bonded warehouse? (Glen Scotia & Loch Lomond).

But, looking at who needs some money at the moment, how about United Spirits? Vijay me be open to a little cash flow right now and maybe Richard Paterson’s successor would like to speak French?

One more thought; how about Burn Stewart’s Bunnahabhain, Deanston & Tobermory?

As has been said before, none may be openly for sale, but everyone and everything has a price and if the war chest is large enough ……

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