News

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.

For Immediate Release: July 25, 2014

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

Major Brands to Acquire Missouri Beverage

Acquisition Reflects Major Brands’ Long-term Strategy to Rebuild Business

St. Louis, MO – Major Brands, Inc., the leading Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Missouri Beverage Company (MoBev), another St. Louis-based statewide distributor of wine, spirits and beer. The intended acquisition is part of Major Brands’ efforts to rebuild its business after the industry’s largest supplier, Diageo, unlawfully terminated its franchise relationship with Major Brands in 2013. Major Brands contends the unlawful termination was part of a concerted attempt with Glazer’s to break Missouri’s alcohol regulatory structure, and is contesting it in the courts.

“The last two years have been an incredible journey for the Major Brands team and for me personally,” said Major Brands’ CEO Susan B. McCollum. “When Diageo terminated us, we were expected to collapse. We withstood those challenges and are rebuilding our business. This is a tribute to my late husband, Todd, and our incredible team.”

Combining MoBev’s outstanding portfolio of suppliers with Major Brands would allow Major Brands to rebuild some of the business it lost in 2013. Its largest suppliers include Edrington, Wilson Daniels, Founders Brewing and Rogue Ales and Spirits. Bill Reichhardt, MoBev President founded the company in 2000.

“It makes sense to have Missouri Beverage join the Major Brands family,” Reichhardt said. “The outstanding performance MoBev has delivered to its suppliers and customers will only be furthered at Major Brands. This is a success story for both companies, our suppliers and retailers throughout the state.”

“The Garco acquisition last December demonstrated that we still have fight left in us,” McCollum said. “Our acquisition of MoBev is further evidence that Major Brands is committed to remain in business in Missouri and keep the Major Brands family together. We are confident that with the MoBev acquisition Major Brands will strengthen its position as a leading statewide craft beer distributor, and enhance our wine and spirits portfolio.”

MoBev’s suppliers will benefit from Major Brands’ superior statewide distribution network and highly educated craft beer, wine and spirits sales teams.

MoBev’s operations will be combined into Major Brands’ statewide wine, spirits and beer distribution business. Major Brands’ management and team will remain in place after the acquisition. Major Brands’ goal is to retain as many MoBev employees as possible. As part of the terms of the acquisition, the Wirtz family is making an investment in Major Brands. Wirtz Beverage had a minority investment in Missouri Beverage. Pending customary due diligence, regulatory approvals and concluding negotiations, the transaction is expected to close this fall.

Major Brands is Missouri’s largest Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and nonalcoholic beverages, with offices in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis. It serves more than 9,000 customers throughout the state. It began operations in 1934, following the repeal of Prohibition and celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2014

For more information please contact: Gena Feldmann /314.633.3727 (o) / 314.604.4049 (cell) Gena.Feldmann@majorbrands.com

St. Louis Restaurants Unite to Support Forest Park Restoration

Kick-off Event and Wine-tasting set for March 3 at Park Visitor Center

ST. LOUIS, MO – St. Louis area chefs and restaurateurs are banding together to support the next wave of restoration and maintenance of Forest Park through an innovative program called Restaurants for Restoration. Starting April 1, restaurants throughout the metropolitan area will offer their patrons the opportunity to support Forest Park by purchasing designated wine selections on their wine lists. When patrons buy a glass or a bottle of the designated wines – including brands such as Estancia, Simi, Wild Horse, Kim Crawford and many more – a portion of the sales will be donated to Forest Park Forever.

A kick-off event and special wine-tasting will be held Monday, March 3, in the Trolley Room at the Forest Park Visitor Center from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to reintroduce the program to local restaurateurs and other participants. The Restaurants for Restoration initiative was first launched in 2001 as a joint effort by Major Brands Premium Beverage Distributors and its supplier partners to build community awareness and raise funds for the major renovations the park has undergone in the past decade. The legacy program was a huge success, raising more than $100,000 in three years to help restore the park. With the resulting surge of visitors and activities in the park, Forest Park Forever is now focusing on the challenge of sustaining those improvements, while tackling new areas of the park in need of an upgrade Lesley Hoffarth, President and Executive Director Forest Park Forever, called Restaurants for Restoration “a fun and creative way for area restaurateurs and caterers to celebrate the wonders of Forest Park and maintain our gloriously restored crown jewel. Its success benefits the entire region.”

Major Brands and wine supplier Constellation Brands are co-sponsors of the 2014 Restaurants for Restoration effort. Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum has been a passionate supporter of Forest Park for decades. “Forest Park has been St. Louis’ most beloved landmark for more than 100 years,” McCollum said. “This unique partnership is a powerful way for independent businesses throughout our region to use their passion for great food and great wine in support of a great cause. Their legacy will be ensuring that Forest Park continues to flourish for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Tracy Czarnec, Owner of Wild Flower Restaurant & Catering in St. Louis, took part in Restaurants for Restoration in 2001, which was good for business as well as good for the park. She said she is “thrilled” to be part of the 2014 relaunch, giving her customers a way to support the park while enjoying delicious wines paired with menu items that use farm-to-fork, local and organic ingredients whenever possible.

“I fell in love with Forest Park as a young girl, and now that I live in the Central West End, this magnificent park is my playground,” Czarnec said. “This treasure of a park is our responsibility to maintain for future generations. It is a privilege to be able to give back to the community in which I live and work.” A full list of participating restaurants can be found after March 15 on the Major Brands Facebook Page.

If you are a restaurant customer of Major Brands that would like to sign up for this program, please complete this form and email to Gena.Feldmann@majorbrands.com

For Immediate Release: January 30, 2014

For more information please contact: Tammy Wheeler /314.633.3606 (o) / 618.210.5579 (cell) tammy.wheeler@majorbrands.com

MAJOR BRANDS HELPS RAISE RECORD $473,000 FOR INDEPENDENCE CENTER

CEO Sue McCollum wins 2014 Dancing with the St. Louis Stars with highest fundraising total

St. Louis, MO – Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum was crowned the winner of the 2014 Dancing with the St. Louis Stars competition for raising the most funds to support the Independence Center. The event, held Jan. 25 at the Four Seasons Hotel, raised a record $473,000 to provide programs and services to assist adults living with severe mental illness to live and work independently in the St. Louis area. McCollum gathered 7,740 votes, with each vote equal to $10, for a total of $74,740.

CEO Sue McCollum wins 2014 Dancing with the St. Louis Stars with highest fundraising total

“Sue McCollum and Major Brands have raised the bar for charitable giving in our community,” Keller said.

“We had a lot of very competitive individuals this year, and this is a huge step up for us,” Keller said. “The funds raised will help ensure that we continue to provide in-depth, comprehensive, high-quality services for thousands of adults with serious mental illness, including employment assistance, safe and affordable housing, wellness, out-patient psychiatric services and social activities.”

In addition to winning the championship for raising the most funds, McCollum was also was voted Audience Favorite. McCollum and her professional dance partner, Senzo Makhaye, performed to pop singer Donna Summer’s 1983 hit, “She Works Hard for the Money,” with backup dancers from the Gateway Men’s Chorus. McCollum wore her vintage waitress’s uniform from Friendly’s Ice Cream, where she worked as a high school student in Buffalo, New York.

McCollum competed against other St. Louis executives, including Tom Minogue, Chairman, Thompson Coburn LLP; David Diener, Vice President and Relationship Manager, St. Louis Trust Co.; Warner Baxter, President and CEO, Ameren Missouri; Nicole Genovese, Sales Associate and Brand Ambassador, Genovese Jewelers; Cynthia Mercer, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Mercy, and Sheila Young, a member of Independence Center.
Watch highlights of McCollum’s dance routine here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXJXa29zv7w&sns=em

For Immediate Release: December 19, 2013

For more information please contact: Christy Bertelson /314.633.3782 (o) / 314.604.3960 (cell)Christy.Bertelson@majorbrands.com

MAJOR BRANDS SIGNS PURCHASE AGREEMENT WITH GARCO WINE CO.

Acquisition Reflects Major Brands’ Long-term Strategy to Rebuild Business

St. Louis, MO –Major Brands Inc., a leading Missouri distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, is pleased to announce the signing of a purchase agreement to acquire Garco Wine Company. Garco is a small, family-owned independent Missouri distributor of fine wines, based in St. Louis. The agreement is scheduled to take effect early next year.

Major Brands CEO Susan B. McCollum said, “We are very excited about this opportunity to bring in new brands that will enhance our fine wine portfolio, and expand their distribution to customers and consumers across Missouri. This acquisition is part of our long-term strategy to attract new suppliers and customers, as we work to rebuild our business following unlawful terminations. Joining forces with Garco will also help ensure the viability of independent, resident Missouri wholesalers in our highly competitive marketplace.”

“We are delighted that Michael Cohen will be joining Major Brands as Sales Director of New Business Development. Mike cares deeply about his customers and the wines he represents – from the local varietals of Missouri wineries to the finest vintages from around the world. He brings a lifetime of experience, a depth of knowledge and a passion for personal service that will make him a great addition to our team.”

“Major Brands is a natural fit for us,” Cohen said. “As third-generation family owned businesses, we have similar corporate philosophies, grounded in the same core values. We both understand the importance of building enduring relationships with our suppliers. We share the same dedication to bringing quality products to market.

“Most importantly, we both are committed to providing outstanding service to all our customers,” Cohen said. “I look forward to helping Major Brands find new strategic opportunities to grow its business in the years to come.”

Subject to customary due diligence and regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close early next year.

Major Brands is Missouri’s leading distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, and the largest distributor that remains Missouri-owned and operated.

For Immediate Release: November 26, 2013

For more information please contact: Christy Bertelson /314.633.3782 (o) / 314.604.3960 (cell)Christy.Bertelson@majorbrands.com

MAJOR BRANDS AND MEALS ON WHEELS: 25 YEARS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE

A Major Brands’ Thanksgiving Tradition Marks a Milestone

MAJOR BRANDS AND MEALS ON WHEELS: 25 YEARS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE

Rose and Don Hercher, who live in Wildwood and work at Major Brands, haven’t missed a single Thanksgiving in 25 years. They began delivering Meals on Wheels before their two daughters – now teenagers – were born. The Thanksgiving morning delivery has become a cherished Hercher family tradition. Rose also coordinates the annual volunteer effort by Major Brands’ employees.

“Even when our children were very small, we brought them with us,” Rose said. “We wanted them to have an understanding that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. Not everyone has a back yard to play in, and a swing set.”

A few years ago, at their final scheduled stop of the day, no one was home to accept the meal when the Herchers knocked on the door. Don turned to Rose and their children and told them he had seen a homeless person nearby, rummaging through a dumpster. He asked if they would like to try to find the man and give him the Thanksgiving meal.

Without hesitation, they turned the car around, backtracked, found the homeless man and gave him the meal.

“He sat down on the curb and ate it there and then,” Rose said. “We were able to make a difference in that guy’s life, that day. That put us in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.”

Over the years, hundreds of needy St. Louisans have received Thanksgiving meals through the Meals on Wheels partnership with Major Brands. And every year, the event is oversubscribed, with more families eager to participate.

“As a family owned company in Missouri for nearly 80 years, Major Brands has this long, strong tradition of volunteer service in the communities where we live and work,” said Sue McCollum, CEO of Major Brands. “Especially this time of year, our families are mindful of our many blessings and the importance of sharing those blessings with others. Giving back is a core value we cherish, and we practice.”

Teams of volunteers from Major Brands will be delivering meals out of the Five Star Senior Center, 2832 Arsenal St. in St. Louis, starting at 9:30 a.m. on November 28.

Major Brands is Missouri’s leading distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, and the largest distributor that remains Missouri-owned and operated.