Oaktree Loses Bottle Over £590m Stock Sale
Talks about a sale of the biggest spirits producer in eastern Europe have collapsed after a disagreement over price between the seller and a fund backed by one of Russia's richest oligarchs.
I understand that discussions that would have seen Pamplona Capital, a private equity firm, acquiring control of Stock Spirits Group, fell apart last week.
People close to the deal said that Oaktree Capital Management, Stock Spirits' current owner, had become uncomfortable with the roughly-£590m price-tag for which it had agreed to sell the company.
The collapse of the talks represents the second time that Oaktree has failed to offload Stock Spirits following an earlier attempt to float the business on the stock market.
It is unclear whether Oaktree will now attempt to run a further auction process. The buyout firm was unavailable for comment.
Pamplona's backers include Alfa Group, a company headed by Mikhail Fridman and one of the members of the AAR alliance which last year agreed to end its conflict-plagued joint venture with BP in Russia by selling out to Rosneft, the Kremlin-controlled energy giant. The deal netted Mr Fridman and his partners at least $7bn each.
Stock, which is based in Britain, has been owned by Oaktree since 2007. Sky News revealed its talks with Pamplona last month.
The drinks company traces its roots back to the Austro-Hungarian empire of the late 19th century, and now claims to be the biggest spirits producer by volume in the Czech Republic and Poland. It is also a major player in markets such as Croatia, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Among its major brands are Stock 84 brandy and Fernet Stock bitter, as well as vodkas such as Wodka Zoladkowa and Orzel. Some of the products are distributed in the UK through big supermarkets, although Britain accounts for only a tiny proportion of the company's sales.
Stock is chaired by Jack Keenan, a former executive at Diageo, and run by Chris Heath, the former chief financial officer of Gondola Holdings, the parent company of restaurant chains including Pizza Express, ASK and Zizzi.
Pamplona declined to comment on the collapse of the talks.