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Diageo (UK)

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 Diageo is the world's foremost spirits business, controlling several of the world's best known brands including Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan Rum and Baileys liqueur, as well as Guinness stout. The group was formed in 1997 by the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness. It has streamlined its operations considerably since then, selling off food brands Pillsbury and Burger King, while also adding the choicest brands from the former Seagram portfolio., as well as a number of key brands in developing markets. The group is especially strong in North America and Asia; weaker in Europe where it is outgunned by arch-rival Pernod-Ricard. There are also significant gaps in its non-spirits portfolio. Guinness is its only beer and in 2015, Diageo agreed to divest virtually all of its small wine business, mostly to Treasury Wines Estates. The group has an important strategic partnership with LVMH's Moet Hennessy division, in which it controls a large minority shareholding. This has prompted speculation that it might at some point launch a bid for full control of that business, possibly at the same time as it offers Guinness up for sale.

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Click here for agency account assignments for Diageo from Adbrands.net. Including unmeasured media, the group reported total marketing spend in the year to June 2019 of £2.04bn, comprising £762m in North America, £490m in Europe, £174m in Africa, £201m in Latin America, and £412m in Asia Pacific. See also

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Brands & Activities

Diageo has size on its side. Its huge collection of brands and strong portfolio of market leaders give it unrivalled muscle in the global drinks market, especially the key territories of the US and UK. However consumer preferences in the spirits industry have become notoriously unpredictable, with sales of some individual brands showing the tendency to rise or decline sharply from year to year. Ready-to-drink products such as Smirnoff Ice have been especially volatile, showing rapid growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s before sharp declines more recently. Guinness too has found the going tough, especially since it lacks much in the way of a supporting portfolio of other beers. There has been repeated speculation that the group may seek to strengthen its beer portfolio through acquisition or divest it altogether. Diageo's currently small wine business would also benefit from consolidation.

Diageo (pronounced "Dee-AH-gee-o") is the world's leading manufacturer and distributor of alcoholic beverages, selling a combined declared volume of 246m equivalent cases in the year to June 2015. (A 58% rise in volumes from 156m cases the year before was the result of full consolidation of United Spirits of India). Diageo handles well over 1,000 brands in total worldwide, but almost all of the profit comes from just its 80 top-selling marques. The rest simply provide leverage. As a result, the group divides its portfolio into four layers.

The top layer now comprises the six biggest mostly high-volume, high-profit "global giants". Smirnoff is Diageo's single biggest brand by volume, selling a little under 26m cases of spirits in 2016 and around another 3.0m of ready-to-drink. It has always been the world's best-selling vodka, and overtook Bacardi rum as the #1 premium distilled spirit overall by volumes in 2005. However, Johnnie Walker is the company's most valuable brand. It is the world's top-selling whisky, though volumes have declined for three consecutive years, falling to 17.3m cases in 2016, according to Impact. However combined value was a mighty $5.2bn, down from past highs but still the global leader by far, almost $1.4bn ahead of the next most valuable brand, LVM-controlled Hennessy cognac, also part-owned by Diageo. Captain Morgan, the main jewel from the former Seagram portfolio, is the #2 rum worldwide, sold mainly though not exclusively in North America. Bailey's Irish Cream is the world's best-selling liqueur. Tanqueray is the best-selling premium gin in the US. Finally the global giants are rounded out with Guinness, the best-selling stout worldwide.

Next comes a collection of twelve "local stars", high-selling brands in key markets. They include Crown Royal Canadian whisky, now the group's most important brand in North America, and supported internationally by J&B Scotch. Other key whisky products include Buchanan's Scotch, Bulleit Bourbon, Windsor Royal, and Old Parr; Bell's whisky in the UK, Spain's Cacique rum; White Horse whisky in Russia; and Australia's iconic Bundaberg rum.

Diageo has steadily expanded its local portfolio through acquisition. In 2007, it purchased an initial 43% of Sichuan Chengdu Quanxing Group of China, which markets baijiu, a traditional local spirit, under the ShuiJingFang brand name. It had increased this stake to 53% by Spring 2012, and bought out the remaining shares by the end of 2013. In 2011, the group added to its local priority portfolio with the acquisition of Mey Icki, the leading spirits company in Turkey, for £1.3bn. It is the clear market leader in raki, Turkey's national spirit, with a collection of several brands including top-seller Yeni, which had volumes of 3.4m in 2016, worth over $1.1bn at retail. Another key regional purchase was Brazilian cachaca brand Ypioca, purchased in 2012 for around £285m. Sales were 6.4m cases in 2016, but pricing is quite low.

Until mid-2013, the global strategic portfolio also housed Jose Cuervo, the #1 premium tequila in the US by volume, accounting for well over a third of the local market. It is almost twice the size of second-placed Sauza (which belongs to Pernod-Ricard). Diageo had for several years handled the brand under exclusive contract from its actual owners, the Beckmann family of Mexico. During 2012, Diageo spent several months in negotiations to acquire ownership of Cuervo, but these talks ended without agreement at the end of the year. As a result, the distribution contract ended in June 2013. However, the company continued to distribute super-premium Don Julio tequila, also owned by Cuervo. In Oct 2014, Diageo acquired full control of Don Julio, in exchange for its own Bushmills Irish whiskey brand, plus a payment by Cuervo of $408m in cash. This now sits within a third band of high-end Reserve Brands. It was joined in 2017 by Casamigos, the super-premium tequila co-founded by actor George Clooney. Diageo agreed to acquire that brand for $700m in cash, plus up to another $300m in a 10-year earnout.

The Reserve Brands portfolio is a separate group of high-end spirits, which get special treatment in key markets such as the UK and US. It includes the ultra-premium editions from the whisky portfolio (Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Green Label etc, Buchanan's Red Seal, and specialist malts like The Singleton and Talisker). Also, along with Don Julio, Ciroc vodka, Ketel One vodka and Bulleit Bourbon. Ketel One is also owned via a joint venture with its creators, the Nolet Group of the Netherlands. Diageo has an option to buy the remaining shares if and when they are sold by Ketel's founding family. At the beginning of 2014, Diageo widened its partnership with Ciroc brand ambassador Sean "Diddy" Combs by jointly acquiring another super-premium tequila, DeLeon, and subsequently acquired another super-premium brand Peligroso. Other important local brands include Seagram's 7 blended American whisky (2.2m cases, and approx $330m 2016) and VO whisky; and Gordon's gin in the UK.

However, Diageo's most significant local deal to-date involves United Spirits (USL) of India, in which it agreed to acquire a minority stake towards the end of 2012. It acquired an initial 27% in January 2013, and had hoped to increase that stake through a public offer to 53%. However, a steep rise in United's share price prompted few shareholders to sell, leaving Diageo still at 27% by May 2013. It added small additional purchases after that, reaching just over 28% in early 2014. In April 2014, Diageo made a new attempt to raise its holding with yet another tender offer to minority shareholders. This allowed Diageo finally to secure majority control with a little under 55% of equity, at a combined price of $3.2bn, making this the biggest food and beverage deal in India's history. However, further problems emerged after a financial investigation revealed that sizeable sums had been transferred out of USL between 2010 and 2014 into other companies controlled by former owner Vijay Mallya. He was persuaded to resign as chairman in 2016 and Diageo began steps to recover some of those diverted funds. The legal fallout associated with the deal was still hanging over the company in mid 2017.

United is in fact the world's single biggest spirits company by volumes, outranking even Diageo itself. Volumes were around 125m cases in 2013, compared to Diageo's 121m cases of spirits. United controls few premium brands (its Whyte & Mackay Scotch was sold in 2014 to Emperador of the Philippines to appease regulators), but it owns more than 20 others selling more than 1m cases each. The biggest by far is McDowell's, the badge for a collection of non-premium whisky, rum and brandy products, with combined volumes in excess of 50m cases and value of over $3bn. Supporting brands include Old Tavern, Bagpiper and Hayward's whisky, each worth in excess of $450m annually at retail. Rising stars in that portfolio include Royal Challenge and Director's Special. The company dominates the fast-expanding Indian market with more than 40% share, four times its nearest rival Pernod-Ricard. India is now Diageo's second-biggest global market after the US.

The final layer within the group's portfolio comprises what are called category management brands, a huge collection of different products some of which are marketed only in one or two countries. In many cases, drinks which are local priority in one market may be simply category managed brands elsewhere.

The company's biggest beer brand by far is Guinness, but the portfolio is rounded out by Irish lagers Harp and Kilkenny; Kaliber alcohol-free lager, Smithwick's (outside Ireland) and other brands in the UK and other markets. It also holds licenses to distribute Budweiser and Carlsberg beers in Ireland. In Africa it has a majority stake in East Africa Breweries, which markets local brands Tusker, Senator and Pilsner, as well as Guinness, in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In 2009, the group acquired rights to market Windhoek beer, a lager owned by Namibia Breweries in which it has a minority stake, in other countries. It launched that brand in the UK for the first time in 2010. In 2012, the group acquired Ethiopian brewer Meta for around £148m. For the year to 2013, beer accounted for volumes of 27m equivalent cases, of which Guinness contributed almost 12m cases, and it contributed 21% of the group's revenues, or almost £2.3bn (more than half of that amount was generated by Guinness). In 2015 Diageo agreed to sell Jamaican beer Red Stripe to Heineken for $780m plus the latter's minority stake in Ghana Guinness.

Until recently there was also a small portfolio of wine, but this was divested in 2015. North America had been Diageo's main territory for wine - the company was the #2 premium wine marketer there (behind Constellation) and the leading importer of high-end French wine. Brands included Sterling and Beaulieu Vineyards (or BV) and Blossom Hill. At the end of 2004, the group added California's Chalone Wine to the portfolio for around $250m. This was supplemented in 2008 by the addition of Rosenblum Cellars for $105m. Other brands included Tessera and Monterey from California; Casillero from Chile; Jose de Souza and Periquita from Portugal; Baron Philippe and Piat d'Or from France. The group's wine portfolio was managed in the UK by specialist subsidiary Percy Fox, which also distributes third party brands including Yellow Tail. Total wine volumes for the year to June 2013 were 3m cases. In 2015, the group announced a plan to sell the bulk of its win business to Treasury Wines Estates in a deal worth $600m in cash and assumed debt. Its Argentinean wine business (Navarro Correas and San Telmo) was sold to Grupo Penaflor. Diageo will retain only a handful of assets including Chalone Wine - which was put for separate sale shortly afterwards - and its high-end dealership and distributor businesses.

The group scored a big hit in the late 1990s and early 2000s with a collection of ready-to-drink (RTD) products. Arguably the first ever RTD was UDL, a blend of vodka and mixers first introduced in Australia in 1965 (and still marketed by Diageo there). But the most successful by far has been Smirnoff Ice (see Smirnoff profile for more). The UK proved one of the most fertile markets for RTD products. Smirnoff Ice was followed by Archers Aqua, another big success. Third brand Gordon's Edge launched in the UK in 2002, but was later withdrawn, and replaced by Bailey's Minis and Bailey's Glide. Archers Aqua was reinforced in 2005 with the launch a new variant, Archers Vea. A new RTD spirit made from fermented fruit, Quinn's, was launched in the UK in 2006, targeted at the Archer's market.

After Smirnoff Ice's even greater success in the US, the Captain Morgan Gold malt-based RTD was launched in early 2002, but proved a resounding flop. However Johnnie Walker One, developed by the whisky's Thai distributors, was far more popular and has been rolled out into other territories. However the RTD market is notoriously fickle, and is also under intense pressure in several European markets as a result of a crackdown on teenage drinking. Germany, France, Switzerland and Norway all agreed on or implemented laws during 2004 to increase the sales tax on pre-mixed cocktails in order to dissuade underage drinkers from buying them. Other countries have followed suit. As a result, sales volumes of RTDs have steadily decreased worldwide each year since 2004, especially in North America (down 13% in 2008) and Europe. Nevertheless the group still sold a total of 5m cases of RTDs in fiscal 2013.

Diageo's distribution is handled through a patchwork of different units, some wholly owned, some joint ventures with other partners, and some through contracted relationships with local third-party companies. The group has a 34% stake in Moet Hennessey, the drinks division of LVMH, and operates a number of distribution companies as joint ventures with the French group. Until recently, one of the biggest of these was Schiefflin & Somerset, which distributed Johnnie Walker and other Diageo whiskeys in the US, as well as Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon champagne and Hennessey cognac on behalf of LVMH, and also Grand Marnier under contract from Marnier-Lapostolle. In 2004 Diageo took back inhouse distribution duties for its own brands, although it continues to own its stake in Schiefflin, renamed Moet Hennessey USA, which still distributes the LVMH and Grand Marnier drinks. There are also joint ventures with Moet Hennessey to distribute both companies' products in France and much of Asia. Diageo is understood to be eager to take full control of Moet Hennessy at a future date if it can secure a reasonable price from LVMH for the majority holding.

In the US, Diageo's biggest brands by volume are Smirnoff (sales of 9.35m cases in 2016, according to Impact), Captain Morgan (5.84m cases), Crown Royal (5.16m), Ketel One (2.17m), Ciroc (1.86m), Johnnie Walker (1.75m), Tanqueray (1.50m), Bailey's (1.27m) and Bulleit (1.06m). In its home market of the UK, Diageo's top-selling brands (in the take-home market) in 2016 were Smirnoff (sales of £488m including RTDs, Nielsen 52 weeks to Apr 2017, The Grocer), Gordon's (£213m), Bell's (£152m), Captain Morgan (£115m), Baileys (£108m) and Guinness (£102m).

The group is a major sponsor of sporting events, supporting several Formula 1/NASCAR, golf, cricket and rugby tournaments.

Until recently, Brandhouse was a joint venture in South Africa with Heineken and Namibia Breweries, which marketed a variety of brands from all three companies. That partnership was dissolved in summer 2015, with Diageo taking back full control of its spirits brands in the region. Since summer 2009, Diageo's beer and spirits brands have been distributed in Japan through a newly formed joint venture with local brewery giant Kirin. A small number of luxury and "super-luxury" products are handled in Japan by MHD Moet Hennessy, a joint venture with Moet Hennessy.

The group sold the last of its food businesses in fiscal 2003. As part of the sale of Pillsbury in 2001, Diageo took a 33% stake in General Mills, but these shares have since been sold. Fast-food chain Burger King was sold to a consortium headed by investment group Texas Pacific in 2002.

Financials

Diageo's net revenues for the year to June 2013 rose 6% to £11.43bn (£15.5bn gross including excise duty). Net attributable profit jumped 28% to £2.49bn. However performance for the following year was somewhat weaker, weighed down by negative exchange rates but also slowing growth in several major markets. Revenues to June 2014 slumped to £10.26bn (£14.0bn including duty), while organic growth at constant rates year-on-year was just 0.4%. Net attributable profit fell to £2.25bn.

For the year to June 2015, full consolidation of United Spirits of India caused total volumes to soar by 58% to over 246m cases, while revenues were up 5% to £10.81bn (£15.97bn including excise duty). Net profits grew 6% to £2.38bn, helped by a lower tax rate and lower exceptional items. However, organic volumes were flat, and operating profit before exceptionals slipped 2%.

Revenues for ye 2016 dipped 3% on currencies and disposals to £10.49bn. Volumes were flat at 246m cases. Net profit dipped 4% to £2.36bn. North America contributed 34% of sales, with 24% from Europe, 13% from Africa, 20% from Asia Pacific and 8% from Latin America. In ye 2016, Scotch whisky accounted for 24% of net sales, American whiskey for 8% and Indian whisky for 5%. Beer contributed 18%, vodka 13% and rum 7%.

For the year to June 2017, exchange rates helped revenues rise by 15% to £12.05bn. At constant rates the increase was still a healthy 4.3%. All regions contributed to growth, with the key North America region up 3% organic and Europe and Africa by 5%. Net profit rose by an impressive 19% to £2.66bn.

Currency headwinds offset solid organic growth of around 5% in ye 2018, holding reported growth to less than 1%. Net sales came in at £12.16bn. However a one-off tax gain in the US lifted attributable net sales by 14% to £3.02bn.

Diageo has around 30% share of the US spirits market, and North America accounted for more than a third of total global volumes. Key individual territories within Europe are the UK, Ireland and Spain.

Background

The two companies which came together to form Diageo in 1997 each had a rich and colourful history. Although best-known for its dark, creamy-headed stout, Guinness had a finger in many different pies by the mid-1990s and was looking for a way to make a quantum leap forward. By chance, Grand Metropolitan was looking for exactly the same opportunity. That company had been the brainchild of Maxwell Joseph, a self-taught property developer who started out buying and selling buildings in and around London in the 1930s. By the end of World War II, there was no shortage of damaged buildings to buy up, and Joseph began to acquire bombed-out sites, renovating and reopening them as hotels for a huge profit. In 1961, Grand Metropolitan went public, using some of the funds it raised to take over Grand Hotels of Mayfair.

The group underwent massive diversification during the following decade. It acquired restaurant chain Berni Inns, Express Dairies, Mecca betting shops, and the breweries Truman Hanburg and Watney Mann in 1971 and 1972. The latter purchase introduced the company to distilled spirits for the first time. Watney Mann already owned International Distillers & Vintners (IDV), makers of Baileys, Bombay Gin, and J&B. IDV was itself the product of a series of mergers, dating back to the mid-18th century. Giacomo Justerini first began distilling whisky in 1749, and his business was acquired 80 years later by Alfred Brooks, who renamed it Justerini & Brooks. J&B itself merged with Twiss Brownings & Hallowes, UK agents for Hennessy cognac, to form United Wine Traders in 1851. Around the same time Walter and Alfred Gilbey set up business in London to distil gin. IDV was formed more than 100 years later when W&A Gilbey and United Wine, each having added a number of additional brands to their portfolios, joined forces in 1962.

By the mid-1970s, Grand Met's size meant that there was little in the UK it could acquire without falling foul of anti-monopoly regulations, so Joseph turned his attentions to the US. Cigarette maker Liggett Group was acquired in 1979, followed by the InterContinental Hotel chain in 1981 (from Pan Am). Joseph died a year later, and his successor, Allen Shepherd, began to refocus on food and drink, selling off Liggett (in 1986), InterContinental (in 1988 to Japanese group Saison) and William Hill/Mecca betting shops (in 1989). The purchase in 1987 of Heublein (Smirnoff, Lancers, and Cuervo) from Nabisco turned IDV into the world's largest wine and spirits company. Two years later Shepherd mounted a hostile takeover of food company Pillsbury, bringing Burger King (acquired by Pillsbury in 1967), Green Giant (acquired 1978), and Haagen-Dazs (acquired 1983) into the fold. In 1991, the company's Watney Mann beer interests were sold to Foster's in the latter's (short-lived) bid to be a world-class brewer. Alpo Pet Foods went to Nestle in 1994 for $510m. Loss-making US optician chain Pearle Vision (bought 1986) was sold to Cole National for $200m in 1996. Purchases included Pet Inc, maker of Old El Paso Mexican foods, for $2.6bn in 1995.

In 1997, Grand Metropolitan and Guinness announced their merger to create a food and drink supergroup, second only to Nestle by revenues. But there was a spanner in the works, in the shape of Bernard Arnault of LVMH. Guinness and LVMH already owned significant stakes in each other, and Arnault also held an 11% shareholding in Grand Met and was involved in a series of joint venture drinks distribution deals. Initially he threatened to block the Guinness-Grand Met merger unless LVMH was included as third partner. After some hard negotiating he relinquished that threat in return for a £270m goodwill payment, a seat on the merged board and rights to distribute the full portfolio of the group's drinks through a separate distribution joint venture. (Arnault subsequently resigned from the board and sold most of his shares to fund an attempted takeover of Gucci).

The combined group announced its new name to almost universal criticism from shareholders. A working title of GMG Brands was dropped for being "too unimaginative", and was replaced with Diageo. (The name combined the Latin for "day" and the Greek for "world", although no one at the group has ever suggested what connection that had to its business portfolio. It was to set a brief trend for mock-Latin corporate names in the UK). Meanwhile the group pushed ahead with consolidation of its various operating divisions. Grand Met's IDV division was merged with Guinness's United Distillers to form UDV. Then the group began to streamline its brand portfolio to remove non-core or insufficiently international assets. These included Dewar's scotch and Bombay Gin (sold to Bacardi for $1.9bn), and a half-share in Cantrell & Cochrane (sold to Allied Domecq for around £275m), both to comply with international competition regulators' requirements.

The sell-off accelerated in 1999: Accent, B&M, Joan of Arc, Las Palmas, and Underwood food brands (to B&G Foods for $192m); the North American Black Velvet, Golden Wedding, Rebel Yell, Old Charter, MacNaughton's, McMaster's and OFC whiskies and bourbons; Spanish brewer Cruzcampo to Heineken for £426m; best-selling German brandy Asbach and Greece's best-selling spirit Metaxa to Dutch spirits business Bols for $200m; and Cinzano, Ouzo 12 and several Brazilian spirits to Campari for an undisclosed amount.

Becoming the world's biggest spirits business also brought with it some friction with the smaller brandowners whose drinks Diageo licensed or distributed. An underlying trend within the spirits industry is that many of the world's biggest brands actually belong to small local manufacturers who license global distribution rights to the multinationals. Mexican tequila maker Jose Cuervo, for example, had originally signed a deal with Grand Met, and insisted on renegotiating the deal when Diageo was formed. The dispute was finally resolved in 2002 after Diageo agreed to return its 45% stake in that business in return for a new distribution agreement extended to 2013. Meanwhile Pernod-Ricard allowed Diageo's US and Japanese distribution rights for its Wild Turkey brand to lapse because the British company now had competing brands. Nor did Diageo's size solve what was then an inherent weakness in the spirits market. By the late 1990s, sales in the spirits market as a whole were static, while sales within the whisky segment were in steep decline. During the 30 years from 1966 to 1996, for example, American consumption of Scotch fell from 103m to just 3.4m litres. In fact, by 1996, the French drank more whisky than the Americans - 131m bottles compared to 120 million in 1996. Meanwhile in Britain, Scotch sales had fallen by a third in a decade.

Despite CEO Tony Greener's 1998 claim that Diageo wanted "to be in the top five of the world's consumer goods companies", it became increasingly apparent that the company's best bet would be to focus its attentions on alcohol, and leave foods to other companies, also consolidating rapidly. The first step came in 1999 when Diageo's Haagen-Dazs ice cream business in the US was transferred into a joint venture with Nestle. The biggest spur to consolidation came a year later when Seagram announced the sell-off of its large drinks portfolio as part of its takeover by Vivendi. All the world's big drinks companies began preparing for an auction battle. In order not to find itself outmanoeuvred, Diageo accelerated its own divestment of non-drinks businesses, putting Burger King up for sale and confirming plans to merge Pillsbury with its US rival General Mills.

Following Seagram's announcement that it would only sell its brands to consortia not single companies, Diageo formed a partnership with French company Pernod-Ricard to divide up the spoils between them. However the Seagram sell-off quickly turned into a shambles, when the individual licensors of Seagram's two key brands, Absolut and Captain Morgan, both announced they would block any deal of which they didn't approve. Eventually the auction turned into a contest between two rival consortia: Diageo and Pernod-Ricard against Bacardi and Brown-Forman. Diageo and Pernod-Ricard swung the deal at the end of 2000, agreeing to pay around $8.2bn between them for the portfolio. Diageo contributed around $5bn for control of Captain Morgan, Crown Royal Canadian whisky and Seagram's wine business. Pernod supplied the remaining $3.2m for Seagram's scotch whiskies such as the Glenlivet and Chivas Regal, as well as selected North American brands. Unwanted or competing brands were disposed of in a further round of deals in 2001 and 2002.

Now the biggest cloud hanging over Diageo was the consolidation of its rum portfolio. Destileria Serralles of Puerto Rico, the actual owner of the Captain Morgan trademark, claimed to have right of approval over the new licensee of their brand, and had already agreed a side deal with Allied Domecqm and the case was submitted to the Puerto Rican courts. The issue was further complicated when US regulators ruled that Diageo, which already owned the #3 rum brand Malibu, could not own Captain Morgan as well. Diageo faced an uncomfortable dilemma. If it sold Malibu to appease regulators, it faced the danger that a Puerto Rican court would rule in favour of Allied Domecq's claim to Captain Morgan, leaving Diageo with nothing. After some months of negotiation, Diageo killed two birds with one stone, agreeing to sell Malibu to Allied for £560m if the latter dropped its claim to Captain Morgan. Rounding off this long series of disposals, The Guinness Book of Records was finally sold to Gullane Entertainment, owners of Thomas The Tank Engine and Sooty, in 2001 for £45.5m. The Glen Ellen and MG Vallejo Californian wine brands were sold in 2002 to Franzia Winery of the US.

Last full revision 3rd August 2017

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