“While we don’t comment on rumors/speculation, what I can say is consistent with what we said on our earnings call on October 4. We continue to focus on driving growth organically, and through acquisition and innovation at the higher end of our wine and spirits portfolio, which has consistently grown 3–4 times the U.S. market rate,” Constellation Brands spokesman Mike McGrew wrote in an email.
Clos du Bois, one of the brands highlighted by Reuters in its report, sold 2 million cases in 2006, the year before Constellation Brands bought it along with the rest of then-Fortune Brands “super-premium” class of wines, and 1,500 acres of vineyards in Sonoma, Napa and Carneros for $885 million. Fortune left the wine business, and its remaining spirits unit became Beam Inc., now known as Beam-Suntory.
“We are also considering a variety of potential options to optimize and continue to grow our wine portfolio and profitability,” McGrew added.
Constellation Brands has bought and sold in the past. Less than three years after the Fortune Brands purchase, it sold off Geyser Peak, Buena Vista, Gary Farrell and XYZin that were part of that deal. It earned a reported $209 million in cash and might have received another $25 million in payments if the privately held group that bought it hit certain goals.
Before that, Constellation Brands spent about $1.31 billion to acquire Canadian wine giant Vincor in 2006, only to sell it a decade later for approximately $750 million. At the time, Constellation Brands CEO Robert Sands said he wanted to focus around premium and high-end brands aimed at millennials.
In 2008, Constellation Brands sold off Almaden and Inglenook wine brands, and the Paul Masson winery located in Madera, California to The Wine Group LLC for $134 million. Both Almaden and Inglenook were table wines that sold for less than $3 per 750 ml bottle equivalent at the time. Today, most of The Wine Group’s Almaden and Inglenook wines retail for about $4. However, Francis Ford Coppola was able to reassemble the original Inglenook estate and buy the iconic Inglenook trademark in 2011. Those wines sell for considerably more.
Goldman returns as Constellation’s adviser
Constellation Brands has hired Goldman Sachs to advise it, Reuters reported. The Wall Street Journal named Goldman Sachs No. 1 for Mergers and Acquisitions advisers for the year-to-date with 338 deals valued at more than $1 trillion completed. Goldman Sachs has played a similar role in the past for Constellation Brands.
Almost as an aside, the company announced that it priced $2.15 billion in Senior Notes. The offering is expected to close Oct. 29. It “intends to use the net proceeds from the offering, together with borrowings under its senior term credit facility and its commercial paper program and cash on hand, to finance” the pending investment in Canopy Growth Corporation of 5.1 billion Canadian dollars, or approximately $4 billion.
Investors were not too sweet on the news, sending shares of both companies down. Constellation Brands closed at $214.88, off more than 9% from its 52-week high of $236.62. Canopy Growth shares also closed lower at $41.01 on the New York Stock Exchange, down more than 29% from its 52-week high.