Beam: 'Business as usual' after sale to Japanese company


by Joe Arnold

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 12:35 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 14 at 12:41 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- "It’s business as usual at Beam," a spokeswoman for the Kentucky distiller said Monday after its $16 billion acquisition by Japan-based Suntory Holdings Ltd. was disclosed.

"We anticipate our operations will continue as they are," said Paula Erickson, Beam Inc's Vice-President of Communications & PR.

With Kentucky roots which date back to 1788, Beam distills several bourbons in Kentucky: Jim Beam, Makers Mark and Knob Creek. 

Suntory operates distilleries and breweries in Japan.  It not only gains the Beam brands, but the knowledge of Kentucky distillers.

"The population of Japan has been shrinking.  It's an aging population," University of Louisville Finance Professor Dave Duvofsky said.  "And Suntory is looking for growth outside of Japan.  The yen has been weakening lately and if it does continue to weaken, striking now to buy an American company is a good move."

Duvofsky said both companies also gain distribution.

"More markets, more shelf space, more power, more marketing power," Duvofsky said, adding that while the companies are not changing operations in the short term, some consolidation is possible in the future.

"By investing $16 billion in a great American company and its workforce, Suntory is creating tremendous global opportunity for Kentucky-made products that will continue to be made the same way, by the same people, as always," Erickson said in the statement.

It's not a first for a Kentucky distillery - Four Roses Bourbon is owned by another Japanese company.  Wild Turkey's corporate parent is in Italy.

"Suntory has indicated that it wants us to keep doing what we’ve been doing," Erickson added.  "Our portfolios and organizations are complementary.  Among the things that have attracted Suntory to Beam are our people, our culture, and how we achieve success. We’re incredibly proud of that."

"They've indicated there will be no threat to local jobs," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) volunteered at an unrelated news conference.  "As a matter of fact, Beam is growing quite a bit, especially the bourbon segment so they expect to continue seeing that going forward as well."

“Today’s announcement is further proof that Kentucky Bourbon is a growing and global force in the spirits marketplace,"
said Eric Gregory, Kentucky Distillers’ Association President in a statement.  "We look forward to working with (Suntory) to continue the Bourbon renaissance and promoting and protecting our signature craft.”