The largest maker of Scotch whisky, Glenmorangie (OTC BB: GDSRF.PK), has existed for generations as an independent company. Its distillery sits on the Dornoch Firth, and has since it was licensed in 1843. In the interim, the "Sixteen Men of Tain" have crafted many a fine whisky. Its offerings are generally priced in the upper range of the already expensive single malt whiskey sector.
Things change. The single malt Scotch business is red hot, and Glenmorangie is up for sale. The company's shares leapt up by 25% yesterday on the news that the Macdonald family has decided to sell its controlling stake in the company, valuing the entire enterprise at over $350 million. What is expected to ensue is a fierce bidding war among the large liquor companies, eager to gain the prestigious Glenmorangie nameplate for their arsenals.
Leading the charge is expected to be American brand powerhouse Brown-Forman
But Bacardi also has a deep relationship with Glenmorangie and is certain to try to compete to take control of the company. Privately held Bacardi distributes Glenmorangie in the U.K. Unlike Brown-Forman, though, Bacardi does not have an existing brand presence in the whiskey market.
Glenmorangie is widely viewed as a brand with phenomenal potential. The company has not kept pace with other more internationally known labels such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, but the immediate spike in share price suggests that the market believes that this is a correctable problem. This is a diamond in the rough, and the fact that you may not be as familiar with Glenmorangie as other brands of Scotch speaks to its current lack of global branding strategy. Put it in the hands of a Brown-Forman, and that changes in a hurry.
The big problem here is one of price. Glenmorangie is a great brand, one that needs a bit of refurbishing. In the last three years the company pulled an Islay legend, Ardbeg, out of mothballs, and its own recent versions have continued to improve. But a big-time bidding war might end up giving the selling shareholders all of the benefit of these potential improvements for many years to come.
Bill Mann's favorite Glenmorangie-labeled offering is its Port Wood Finish whisky, which is absolutely brilliant. His all-time favorite Scotch, though, is Ardbeg 10-year-old. He holds none of the companies mentioned in this story. He is willing to accept any and all free samples from them, however.