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.”