A piece of legendary Americana will now be owned by a Japanese firm.
Beam Inc., the maker of the bourbons Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, will be sold to Japan’s Suntory in a deal the companies say is worth $16 billion, including assumed debt.
In a statement, Beam CEO Matt Shattock said: “Together we will be a global leader in distilled spirits with the No. 3 position in premium spirits and a dynamic portfolio across key categories. With particular strength in Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, Irish and Japanese whisky, the combined company will have unparalleled expertise and portfolio breadth in premium whisky, which is driving the fastest growth in Western spirits.”
The deal was unanimously approved by both boards.
Slate’s Matthew Yglesias explains a bit of the business behind the acquisition:
“Bourbon demand has been surging in Asia, which briefly led Beam Inc. to consider watering down Maker’s Mark to increase supply. Suntory is in Asia and, I think, believes it has some competency advantages in terms of Asian marketing and distribution. What it doesn’t have is bourbon brands or facilities in the United States of America. Beam’s got those, so together they can perhaps form a bourbon-exporting juggernaut. Of course for American bourbon drinkers this is probably going to end up meaning higher prices if more of the stuff gets shipped to China.”
“The deal is the biggest ever struck by Suntory, whose beverage empire includes Yamazaki Japanese whisky, Bowmore Scotch and Midori liqueur. The company’s previous largest transaction was its purchase of Orangina Schweppes from a consortium of investors for more than $3 billion in 2009.
“Suntory was founded in 1899 and created Japan’s first whisky producer in 1923, when the company’s founder, Torii Shinjiro, built the Yamazaki distillery using the principles of Scotch whisky production.
“In recent years, Suntory has been expanding aggressively overseas to counteract a shrinking market at home in Japan, where the population is declining.”