Pernod Ricard sells BWG in €220m management buyout

PERNOD RICARD has sold its BWG subsidiary for €220 million to a management buyout led by chief executive Leo Crawford.

The deal was backed by venture capital firm Electra Partners.

Mr Crawford says he expects the deal, which has been in the pipeline for nearly a year, to be finalised in August once regulatory approval is achieved. The firm’s 2,200 workers will share in the deal.

Mr Crawford said: “There were a number of private equity houses interested in the deal but Electra and the management are at the stage where we are on the final lap. There is a commitment to make a payment to the workers. Once the deal is completed, it will be made.”

Pernod Ricard decided last year to dispose of BWG after its purchase of Seagram and to concentrate on its drinks business.

BWG focuses on wholesale distribution.

However, the company is best known here for the Spar convenience shops.

It owns Bargain Booze and Appleby Westward, the Spar wholesaler in the South West of England, as well as BWG Wholesale, which delivers to independent retailers. It also runs the Mace shops in Northern Ireland.

Former United Drug chief executive Jerry Liston and former IBI Corporate Finance head Richard Keatinge, will join the BWG board.

Mr Crawford said the firm was looking to expand: “Now we are free from the uncertainties of the past year, we are looking at the opportunities to further the business. I would see excellent opportunities for growth for our Bargain Booze franchise in the UK. When we acquired that business two years ago we had 150 stores. Now we’re up to 300. We are very comfortable that we can add at least 50 new stores a year. Ireland is very healthy and we are as confident of growth, especially at Spar.”

Mr Crawford added: “Parts of the business have suffered, mainly our wholesale business in the UK.

Having said that, our business in Ireland and Bargain Booze have come through very well. If a business performs well when there isn’t 100% management focus that augurs well for the future.”

Turnover grew from 1.95bn from 2.15bn with pre tax profit in 2001 of 31m.

Electra will hold a majority stake in BWG with smaller holdings for management. Newhill, which runs 115 Spar franchises, will also become a shareholder.

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