Beer Business Is Big Business: Columbia Distributing Sells to Private Equity Firm
It's a big day for news in the craft beer business. After the report on Bloomberg Business Week earlier, Beer Business Daily has just broken the news that Columbia Distributing has been sold to a large private equity firm (thanks to James Fick for the heads up). If you needed any more proof that big business is gunning for the craft beer market, this helps make the case. The article is behind a pay wall, so I will give you the gist of the information disseminated from a press release and with my own inside information:
Columbia Distributing, or CoHo, was created in a merger in 2008 between Columbia Distributing Co. of Portland, Mt. Hood Beverage Co. of Portland, and Gold River Distributing of Medford to create a dominant distributor. CoHo's regions are vast, all the way from Northern California to the Canadian border. At the time of the merger in 2008 the company was reported to sell over 35 million cases a year, and sales are likely well over that now. You may recall recently that Hopworks Urban Brewery jumped ship from Point Blank to sign with Columbia Distributing.
(Ed note: info below this from press release)
CoHo is being purchased by the Meritage Group, a firm that manages capital primarily for the affluent Simons family, whose patriarch James ran one of the world's largest hedge funds, Renaissance. (He's a Berkeley-trained mathematician who used sophisticated mathematical models to invest in markets).
Columbia's day-to-day operations, management, staffing levels, go-to-market structure, and operating standards will not change, according to Columbia's statement. Gregg Christiansen will continue as CEO and will become the chairman of the board for Columbia Distributing. Mark Walen and Chris Steffanci will remain Columbia's presidents for Oregon and Washington.
"I look forward to working with Meritage and our existing team as we begin a new chapter of developing the company for sustainable, long-term success," said Gregg. "I am confident this ownership change will be good for Columbia, our suppliers, our employees, and our communities."
"We've been approached often by potential buyers over the years, but after being contacted by Meritage, which manages capital for the Simons family, we realized they are a different kind of buyer than what we have seen in the past with a longer-term investment horizon," said Columbia Distributing's board manager and director, Dave Alexander, speaking on behalf of the board. "It was also important to Columbia's ownership group that a buyer demonstrate a commitment to all of Columbia's stakeholders including employees, suppliers, and retailers. Meritage is not unlike many of our current owners, as it manages family capital with a view of holding an investment for a long period of time. The owners felt that if we were going to consider selling, this buyer would be a great steward of the enterprise for many years to come. We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with them."
I will be following up with Columbia Distributing on this late breaking story - Samurai Artist