Napa Valley wine brands key to $552M Treasury–Diageo deal

In a “game-changer” deal, United Kingdom-based Diageo PLC has agreed to sell the majority of its wine business - including several Napa County brands - to Australia-based Treasury Wine Estates for $552 million.

U.S. assets being acquired from Diageo’s Chateau & Estate Wines portfolio include brands Beaulieu Vineyards (BV), Sterling Vineyards, Acacia, Provenance Vineyards and Hewitt Vineyard. However, Diageo said among wine assets it would keep is the Acacia winery on the Napa Valley side of Los Carneros appellation and related vineyards.

The cash sale agreement, announced Oct. 13, includes $552 million plus $48 million in assumption of capitalized leases. It is set to close around the end of this calendar year, pending regulatory approvals.

“This acquisition will transform our U.S. business into a larger player of scale in the attractive luxury and masstige segments of the high growth U.S. market,” said Michael Clarke, Treasury’s CEO, in a statement. “The additional supply of luxury and masstige wine will be a game-changer for our U.S. brands, providing us with an immediate opportunity to step-change our growth in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Latin America.”

“Masstige” is a marketing term for products positioned as prestigious yet priced to be affordable in mass-market venues.

Also part of the deal is the Blossom Hill brand in the U.K., a pickup that Treasury said would give it “scale and critical mass” in commercial brands there and globally. The brand is that country’s second-largest by sales volume and value.

Diageo’s remaining wine interests would be Justerini & Brooks Wine Merchants in the U.K., Navarro Correas in Argentina, Mey Icki in Turkey and USL in India, the Chalone brand and related assets in Monterey County and the Acacia production facility and vines. The company reportedly told Wine & Spirits Daily that it continues to seek buyers for Chalone and for the Acacia properties.

The sale is projected to net Diageo £320 million after taxes and transaction costs, money the global drinks company said it plans to use to pay down debt. Wine made up only 4 percent of the £10.8 billion in net sales in fiscal 2015, the company reported.

This deal comes as Diageo and Treasury have been reshuffling their wine holdings in recent years. Diageo in June 2010 sold North Coast vineyard and production properties for $260 million and leased them back.

Treasury earlier this year announced consolidation of its North Coast production facilities, putting up the large winery in the northern Sonoma County community of Asti for sale, moving Asti wine production to Paso Robles for commercial and masstige brands and to Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley for luxury brands, and consolidating its Napa Bottling Center.

E&J Gallo Winery in July purchased the Asti facility, 275 acres of surrounding vineyards and the Souverain brand.

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