The US makers of Jim Beam, Canadian Club and Makers Mark have been sued for $100 million (€76.8m) by an importer that claims Beam Inc and its Cooley Distillery unit broke a contract to supply it with Michael Collins Irish Whiskey.
The importer — the New York-based Sidney Frank Importing Co (SFIC) — claimed in a suit filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court that the defendants cut off its access to the private-label whiskey brand after Beam acquired Cooley last year.
"Cooley unilaterally and wholly without justification abandoned its supply contract with SFIC," the importer claimed.
"Beam orchestrated this move in order to monopolise Cooley’s production capacity for the benefit of its Kilbeggan brand, which Beam is aggressively promoting in the United States where Michael Collins had been ascending rapidly," the importer said in its complaint.
SFIC claimed the move is part of Beam’s strategy to challenge the top-selling Jameson Irish Whiskey brand and rid the market of private-label whiskeys including Michael Collins.
SFIC sued Beam and Cooley for breach of contract, unfair competition and tortious interference with the importer’s business relationships with distributors throughout the US.
Beam spokesperson Clarkson Hine said they were confident they would win the case.
"We have been in commercial discussions with Sidney Frank regarding this matter.
"We are confident in our position and that we will prevail," said Mr Hine.