Southern Comfort’s parent company said Thursday that it is selling the iconic brand to a rival liquor company as part of a $543.5 million deal.
Brown-Forman Corp. said its Southern Comfort and Tuaca brands will be sold to Louisiana-based Sazerac. Tuaca is a relatively small premium liqueur brand.
Sazerac President/CEO Mark Brown said the family-owned, privately held company was excited to acquire the two brands and looks forward to “years of successful brand building.”
The sale is expected to close by March 1, Brown-Forman said. It will result in a one-time operating income gain of about $475 million for the company in fiscal 2016, it said.
Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga said the sale reflected the Louisville, Ky.-based company’s evolving portfolio strategy and its focus on top-priority brands. Brown-Forman’s dominant brand is Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
As for Southern Comfort and Tuaca, he said: “Both brands played important roles in the Brown-Forman success story, and we will have fond memories of the enjoyment they brought to consumers, our partners and to Brown-Forman.”
Brown-Forman acquired Southern Comfort in 1979, but the brand has struggled in recent years. The company launched marketing campaigns in recent years to try to reinvigorate the brand, which gained fame in the 1960s as the late singer Janis Joplin's beverage of choice.
Brown-Forman said last month that net sales for the Southern Comfort brand had dropped by 7 percent in the first half of the company’s fiscal year. The company pointed to weak sales at bars and restaurants and competition from new flavored whiskies.
Southern Comfort sales are divided about evenly between the U.S. and overseas markets. Its leading international markets include Europe and Australia.
Brown-Forman has owned the Tuaca brand since 2002. The brand is mostly sold in the U.S. but has a market in the United Kingdom as well.
Sazerac’s holdings in Kentucky include the Buffalo Trace, Barton 1792 and Glenmore distilleries.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.