May 1, 2013 – The second-generation brothers of Douglas Laing & Co. have split the company in what Fred and Stewart Laing are both calling an amicable de-merger. Reports of the split have been widespread in recent weeks, but the final papers were signed Tuesday in Glasgow.
The company was founded by their father, Fred Douglas Laing, in 1948, and as part of the de-merger, Fred Laing retains the rights to the Douglas Laing name. Stewart Laing has formed a new company with his share of the Douglas Laing assets, to be called Hunter Laing & Co. (Hunter is Stewart’s middle name).
“As in all things, and all ways of life, families have different views,” Stewart Laing told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie today. “My brother and I had different views as to the way forward, and basically, on the basis of that, we decided that the better way forward is to de-merge and literally do our own things”
The split allows both brothers to put their succession plans in order. Stewart’s sons, Andrew and Scott, will join their father and merge their existing Edition Spirits company into Hunter Laing. As reported previously on WhiskyCast, Fred’s daughter Cara will join Douglas Laing as Head of Brands Marketing. She had previously been with Morrison Bowmore Distillers as Marketing Manager for Bowmore and Glen Garioch single malts, with previous experience at Whyte & Mackay. In separate interviews, both fathers expressed great pride at being able to work with their children, with plans to pass on their businesses to the third generation.
While Fred Laing retained the rights to the Douglas Laing name, Stewart took the company’s bottling hall for Hunter Laing (which will continue to be used for some time by Douglas Laing). The brands and whisky stocks were split between the brothers. Douglas Laing retains the Provenance, Director’s Cut and Premier Barrel single malt brands, the Clan Denny single grain brand, Big Peat and Double Barrel blended malts, and the King of Scots, McGibbons, and Epicurean blended Scotch brands. Hunter Laing takes the Old Malt Cask, Old & Rare, and Douglas of Drumlanrig single malt brands, the Sovereign single grain brand, and the Douglas Blend, John Player Special, Langside, and House of Peers blended Scotch brands.
“There were a couple of hard decisions that had to be made,” Fred Laing said in a phone interview. “I wanted to hold on to Big Peat, which is for us currently a real stormer with great potential and currently is probably our second biggest-selling brand within the previous Douglas Laing portfolio, so if I wanted that best one, Stewart had to get his next choice. So, it was split thereafter almost by dint of ‘what did you want next?”
The split has been in the works for almost a year, and both brothers plan to put their energies into developing new brands to replace the ones they each lost in the split. While neither would reveal details of their plans today, both hope to have new single malt ranges launched later this year.
For more on this story and the complete interviews with Fred and Stewart Laing, listen to this weekend’s episode of WhiskyCast.