Monthly Archives: September, 2014

Major Brands settles ‘liquor wars’ with Diageo, Glazer’s

Leisa Zigman, KSDK 11:38 a.m. CDT September 23, 2014

ST. LOUIS – Major Brands, the largest Missouri-owned distributor of wine, spirits, and beer, reached a settlement with alcohol producer Diageo and St. Charles-based distributor Glazer’s. The terms of what was only described as a “substantial” settlement were not disclosed, but Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum left the courthouse Tuesday morning with an ear-to-ear smile. Major Brands employs 500 people in Missouri and was suing Diageo, claiming it breached it franchise agreement when they switched its business to Glazer’s. In opening statements, Major Brands attorney Rick Walsh told jurors evidence would show damages to Major Brands neared $200 million. Attorneys for Diageo countered there was no franchise agreement and that Major Brands underperformed year after year.

Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum left the courthouse Tuesday morning with an ear-to-ear smile following the settlement. (Photo: KSdk)

A settlement was announced Tuesday morning with jurors saying the case was clearly heading in Major Brands’ direction.

“Diageo kept talking about performance but the contract they signed with Glazer’s, the standards they were setting for Glazer’s, Major Brands would not have fallen under those standards,” juror Aren Springer said. “They were claiming poor performance; it seemed Major Brands was in the driver’s seat.”

Major Brands issued the following statement: “The parties in the Missouri trial of Major Brands against Diageo and Glazer’s have settled the case for a substantial payment made to Major Brands…The company is happy to put this matter in the rearview mirror and remains committed to providing our retailers and suppliers with outstanding service and performance.”

Diageo followed with a statement of its own: “Diageo is pleased to amicably resolve this regrettable dispute. Diageo continues to distribute our beer and Smirnoff Ice lines with Major Brands, recognizing it as a well-run, family-owned business, which in the words of the late Todd Epsten, ‘uses its business to build the community.’ We look forward to growing that business in Missouri with Major Brands.”

Glazer’s issued this statement: “Glazer’s is pleased to announce that all pending litigation relating to the terminations of Major Brands by Luxco, Diageo and Bacardi has been settled. The settlement, in which Glazer’s has denied all wrongdoing, puts an end to our legal expenses and allows Glazer’s to focus on its suppliers, employees, and customers.”

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/23/liquor-wars-settlement-reached/16099475/

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2014

Statement on Major Brands v. Diageo and Glazer’s

St. Louis–The parties in the Missouri trial of Major Brands against Diageo and Glazer’s have settled the case for a substantial payment made to Major Brands.

Diageo issued the following statement: “Diageo is pleased to amicably resolve this regrettable dispute. Diageo continues to distribute our beer and Smirnoff Ice lines with Major Brands, recognizing it as a well-run, family-owned business, which in the words of the late Todd Epsten, “uses its business to build the community.” We look forward to growing that business in Missouri with Major Brands.

Major Brands is thankful to the Judge, the Missouri judicial system and the St. Louis citizens who sat on the Jury, and appreciates Diageo’s kind words about Todd. The company is happy to put this matter in the rear-view mirror and remains committed to providing our retailers and suppliers with outstanding service and performance.

Missouri’s liquor wars: Woman in a man’s world

Leisa Zigman, KSDK 10:39 p.m. CDT September 17, 2014

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/17/missouri-liquor-trial-sue-mccollum-major-brands-diageo/15792861/

A nasty fight involving millions of dollars, hundreds of local jobs, and a take-no-prisoners liquor war took center stage at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis Wednesday.

ST. LOUIS – A nasty fight involving millions of dollars, hundreds of local jobs, and a take-no-prisoners liquor war took center stage at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis Wednesday.

Sue McCollum is the only woman in the nation to own and run a liquor distributorship with revenues of $500 million.

She took over as CEO of Major Brands, an 80-year-old, family-owned Missouri business, when her husband Todd Epsten passed away from brain cancer in May 2012.

McCollum is suing international liquor supplier Diageo because she claims it illegally terminated its contract and gave $100 million in business to chief rival, Glazer’s.

You get the liquor in your cabinet from two major distributors in Missouri.

According to Diageo, Major Brands distributed 55 percent of liquor in the state and Glazers distributed 45 percent.

But Diageo argues, Glazer’s worked harder, had a better business plan and eventually sold more product. In opening statements it was revealed that Glazer’s is paying all of Diageo’s expenses in this case.

Diageo’s attorney, Lazar Raynal of McDermott Will & Emery of Chicago, argued Major Brands was failing to perform and consistently failed to reach its sales goals.

Before switching to Glazer’s, he said Major Brands missed sales by 50,000 cases.

Raynal showed a picture of Busch Stadium and asked jurors to picture every seat with a case of liquor, and then 4,000 more cases circling the bases to drive home the message of how poor sales were.

In opening statements McCollum’s attorney, Rick Walsh of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh implied that Glazer’s gave Diageo $20 million to lure them away from Major Brands.

Major brands is suing both Diageo and Glazer for breach of franchise law.

Supporters of McCollum say, this is more a case of those in a male dominated field pushing out a woman trying to save her family business and the jobs of 500 Missouri employees.

The legal crux of this case is Missouri’s franchise law.

That law prevents alcohol suppliers from terminating contracts without “good cause.” McCollum is seeking $200 million in damages.

The trial is expected to last three weeks with McCollum taking the stand perhaps has early as Friday.

Major Brands accepted a nomination from Beam Suntory to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Supplier partners and employees, some personally affected by ALS, were given the honors of pouring over Jim Havel, Tony Short, Carrie Ward, Sue McCollum, Dawn White-Weeks, Mary Goodman, Tom Schawang, and Barry O’Neil.

In addition to participation in the challenge, Major Brands also donated $1,000.00 to the ALS Foundation.

For Immediate Release: September 3, 2014

For more information please contact: Tammy Wheeler / 314.633.3606 tammy.wheeler@majorbrands.com

MAJOR BRANDS CELEBRATES 80TH ANNIVERSARY AND NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH WITH KEWPIES ‘N CREAM

Community partners to join in festivities at 9 a.m. September 5 at Major Brands St. Louis 

ST. LOUIS – Major Brands, Inc., the leading Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages is celebrating its 80th anniversary on September 5, 2014. The celebration will feature a specially created Bourbon Missouri Black Walnut flavored ice cream, “Kewpies ‘n Cream,” which was named after Major Brands’ founder, Joseph “Kewpie” Epsten and created especially for the occasion by Serendipity, St. Louis’ hand-crafted ice creamery.

Forest Park Forever President and Executive Director, Lesley Hoffarth, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri (BBBSEMO) President and CEO, Becky James-Hatter, both enduring community partners of Major Brands, will join Susan B. McCollum, Major Brands CEO, in scooping ice cream for the Major Brands team on Friday, September 5. A portion of Kewpies ‘n Cream prior sales on National Ice Cream Day at Serendipity was donated to BBBSEMO.

Major Brands chose September, National Bourbon Heritage Month, to mark its anniversary. Bourbon is distinctive to the United States and is considered America’s native spirit. Major Brands distributes Jim Beam and the Beam bourbon portfolio in Missouri.

In 1934, following the passage of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of Prohibition, alcoholic beverages became legal again in Missouri. In that same year, Joseph Epsten, also known as Kewpie, founded E-L Wholesale, in St. Joseph. Eighty years later, E-L Wholesale, now Major Brands, has offices in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield. With more than 500 employees, it serves more than 9,000 restaurants, bars, as well as grocery, chain and independent stores across the state.

“To stay in business–any business–for 80 years is an accomplishment,” McCollum, Major Brands CEO and chairman, said. “To stay in business in our industry, which has undergone massive consolidation, and in our state, where locally-owned wholesalers, such as Major Brands, have undergone threats by giant international liquor suppliers, it is a remarkable achievement.”

McCollum represents the third generation of family ownership of Major Brands. She succeeded her late husband Todd Epsten after he passed away from brain cancer in 2012. Robert Epsten, Todd’s father, opened General Wholesale, a second family wholesale operation in Kansas City in the early 1950s. Todd then led the company’s expansion into St. Louis and throughout the state in the late 1980s, resulting in the consolidation of the companies under the name of Major Brands.

Major Brands is one of but a few single-state, independently owned and operated wine and spirits wholesalers remaining in the country. Today, multi-state, mega wholesalers dominate. Major Brands is the only large wholesale wine and spirits distributor to be woman led and owned.

For more information on Major Brands’ history or its 80th Anniversary celebration, please contact Tammy Wheeler at 314-633-3606.