November 29, 2013 – Former Whyte & Mackay owner Vivian Imerman is interested in buying his old company back if UK regulators force Diageo to divest the United Spirits Ltd. unit. Imerman and his partners sold the Scotch whisky company to USL’s Vijay Mallya in 2007, and the Financial Times reports Imerman’s Vasari private equity firm would be prepared to make a bid for Whyte & Mackay. In a statement, Vasari said Whyte & Mackay would mesh well with its portfolio of spirits and beer businesses in Africa and Asia.
Earlier this week, the UK’s Office of Fair Trading essentially rejected Diageo’s plans to acquire Whyte & Mackay as part of its deal for a controlling interest in USL. Diageo has offered to sell most of the Whyte & Mackay assets in order to get the agency’s approval, and that offer is being reviewed by the OFT. The drinks giant wants to keep the Dalmore and Tamnavulin malt whisky distilleries in order to supply its needs in India and other global markets, but would sell off Jura, Fettercairn, the Invergordon grain whisky distillery, and the Whyte & Mackay-branded blended Scotch business. Diageo has declined to comment on Vasari’s interest or other issues involving Whyte & Mackay while the OFT reviews its latest proposal.
According to the FT, Imerman and his former business partner, Robert Tchenguiz, made £420 million ($687 million USD) in profits when they sold Whyte & Mackay to Mallya for £595 million ($974 million USD) in 2007. The South African-born Imerman was married to Tchenguiz’s sister, but a nasty divorce in 2008 led to allegations that Tchenguiz used his access to the partners’ shared computer network to provide his sister with confidential information about Imerman’s assets.