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By Mark Gillespie
September 21, 2021 – Like other spirits companies, Pernod Ricard has been nibbling at the edges of the e-commerce business with in-house platforms. Now, the number-two spirits producer is taking a shark-sized bite with a deal to acquire London-based retailer The Whisky Exchange from founders Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh. The brothers entered the retail business 22 years ago with a single shop in London, and have expanded over the years to become one of the world’s leading online retailers of whiskies and other spirits while opening two additional locations in London.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition includes the online and physical retail operation, the Speciality Drinks distribution unit, and the Whisky.Auction online auction site, along with the annual Whisky Show events produced by The Whisky Exchange. In addition, Pernod Ricard will also acquire ABV Global, which produces the London Cocktail Week, London Beer Week, and London Wine Week events.
Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh will stay on following the acquisition as joint managing directors, but will be splitting their time managing the remaining assets not included in the deal. That includes their new distillery currently under construction on Islay, along with the Elixir Distillers independent bottling unit and Speciality Brands, the UK importer for whiskies from Amrut, Kavalan, Waterford, Corby, Michter’s, and other spirits.
In a statement emailed to WhiskyCast, Sukhinder Singh cited the growth of the whisky industry worldwide as a critical reason for their decision to seek a partner. “The last few years in particular have brought about a period of rapid growth that has highlighted the need for us to bolster our experience, resource and infrastructure to deliver the next stage of business development, and we’re excited to have agreed this deal with Pernod Ricard to help achieve this. Myself and my brother Rajbir are looking forward to remaining at the helm of the business and helping drive future growth for the global drinks industry,” he said.
Pernod Ricard has been operating its own e-commerce unit in countries where it’s allowed to do so. The Paris-based company acquired Uvinium in 2018 and has since rebranded it as Drinks & Co. with online sales in 10 European countries. In 2019, it acquired Bodeboca, Spain’s largest online wine and spirits retailer, and continues to operate it separately from the Drinks & Co. Spanish web site. In addition, it sells whiskies through the web sites for its Jameson, Redbreast, and Chivas Brothers brands where allowed by local laws.
Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard expects to use the knowledge the Singhs have developed in selling whiskies and other spirits worldwide through The Whisky Exchange’s online site, including their experience in shipping to the United States. “E-commerce is a key channel in our long term strategy. We are thrilled to work with industry pioneers such as Sukhinder, Rajbir and the whole team to bring The Whisky Exchange to a new step of its development,” Ricard said in a statement.
Listen to this weekend’s episode of WhiskyCast for more details on this story, including an interview with Sukhinder Singh.