Let's call it the Tennessee Whiskey Waltz. And let's say that alcohol industry titan Diageo (NYSE:DEO) is being paid not to steal anyone's sweetheart.

Pernod Ricard, the owner of such brands as Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet, has been casting eyes at Allied Domecq (NYSE:AED), the world's second-largest liquor company. To make the courtship work, Pernod brought in Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO), the maker of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, to ply the company with enough cash, equity, and debt. Although Allied accepted the $14 billion bid, the company made it clear that it was keeping its options open.

That opening allowed wine connoisseur Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) to step onto the dance floor with Brown-Forman (NYSE:BFB) and created the potential to use Diageo's leverage to contemplate making an offer.

Pernod would have none of it. In exchange for Diageo staying away from the acquisition, Pernod agreed to sell it the oldest name in Irish whiskey, Bushmills, along with Allied's Montana wine collection -- assuming the deal is consummated. In short, Pernod is buying off Diageo to ensure it does not upset the acquisition plans.

Fellow Fool Nate Parmelee recently noted that Motley Fool Income Investor selection Diageo was the one company in this corporate tango positioned to make out from the deal. Regardless of who the winning bidder is, that company will be taking on more debt than it currently has, risking a credit downgrade and increasing its servicing costs. Brown-Forman and Fortune Brands are also endangering their share buyback programs and dividend increases. Diageo, on the other hand, remains unencumbered, and it's even getting some choice brands to add to its already impressive roster. Simply for doing nothing.

The stay-away agreement calls for Diageo to pay $363 million to Pernod for the Bushmills brand, giving it immediate standing in the Irish whiskey market. Pernod already dominates the segment with an 85% market share -- and now it will be getting (from Allied) the third-best-selling Irish whiskey in the U.S., Tullamore Dew. Pernod is also giving Diageo an exclusive, no-cost option to buy Allied's Montana wine business for $580 million. In return, Diageo promises to stay away from any deals for Allied.

The payoff makes a counter offer by Constellation more difficult, though not impossible. Other partners could always be added to the consortium, or a bid could be sweetened even further. Pernod's bid is currently split 80/20 between stock and cash, but Constellation could increase its cash tender.

With so few players, though, it's an amazingly cluttered dance card. Pernod just wants to make sure no one comes along and steals its little darlin' while they're playing this Tennessee Whiskey Waltz.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey doesn't dance, and he does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.