I have to admit that I was surprised by the news today that Gruppo Campari, the makers of, well...Campari, have acquired Wild Turkey from Pernod Ricard for $575 million in cash. Not surprised that Wild Turkey was sold; there have been rumors about that. Pernod borrowed a lot to buy Absolut last year, and they're looking for cash to retire the debt; selling Wild Turkey was a quick way to do that, and analysts feel this was a good price.
This is Campari's biggest acquisition so far; they also recently bought SKYY vodka (2002), Cabo Wabo Tequila (the Sammy Hagar booze), and X-Rated vodka (both 2007), and picked up Glen Grant (a single malt that's big in the Italian market) as a side deal in the Allied Domecq dismemberment. Wild Turkey's definitely a jewel among those brands: it's growing, it has a strong foothold and excellent reputation in the U.S., Australia, and Japan, and, of course, it comes with Jimmy Russell.
This could be a smart move for Campari. Wild Turkey is a premium brand, in the honest sense of the word (maybe they'll enhance that premium aspect by dropping Wild Turkey 80 proof?). It has great name recognition; so does Campari, but people actually drink Wild Turkey.
What's this mean for Wild Turkey drinkers? Probably nothing at all, thankfully. It's all going to be back-office stuff: new wholesaler, new sales rep at most, and maybe not even that. Did anyone in the eastern U.S. even notice when Corona changed importers a few years ago? Nope. Wild Turkey has a strong enough pull from consumers that orders should keep up even if Campari bobbles things a bit (which they probably won't; they must have some kind of sales force, because there's a bottle of Campari on every damned back bar and I never see anyone actually drinking it).
I'll admit, this makes me a little sad. Wild Turkey was one of Pernod Ricard's earliest acquisitions, and they've been with the company for almost thirty years. Jimmy Russell will tell you that Wild Turkey is just a little family-owned company...only the family lives in Paris. I don't know if the Campari family still controls most of Gruppo Campari, but Milan (not Torino, as I originally misstated) just doesn't have the same pizzazz as Paris.