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Eyebrows then hopes were raised last week when the owners of Wild Turkey confirmed that the distillery had been sold to Italian company Campari for $575 million in cash.
Eyebrows because the sale was considered to be at least as much if not more than former owner Pernod Ricard of France was asking for the landmark distillery.
Hopes as speculation spread that the new owners might eventually return bottling of the product to Lawrenceburg, providing good-paying jobs that were lost years ago.
“It appeared to be a very good selling price,” said Charlie Cammack, president of the Lawrenceburg-Anderson County Economic Development Authority. “It tells you the company is pleased with what they bought, at least that’s what I read between the lines.
“It sold for every bit of what the forecasters thought it would, and may even exceeded what they thought.”
The sale includes the Wild Turkey brands, the American Honey liqueur, the distillery in Lawrenceburg and related assets, along with the aged bulk bourbon inventory. It is expected to close by June 30.
News of the sale spread quickly across Lawrenceburg and was met with optimism by local officials and plant employees.
“I’m excited,” said plant manager Tom Krekeler, adding that the distillery expansion project that began last year will continue.
“This is a great opportunity for the facility and the people who work here.”
Krekeler said employees learned of the sale last Wednesday morning in a town-hall type meeting, and added that Campari has agreed to honor contracts already in place with the plant’s union employees.
Mayor Edwinna Baker said if the plant manager is excited, that’s good enough for her.
“I think when the plant manager’s excited, that’s certainly a good sign,” she said, adding that although there was never any discussion about the distillery leaving Anderson County, she’s happy to know that Wild Turkey will remain here at a time so many other communities are losing industry.
Baker said one of her hopes is that bottling jobs lost years ago when the distillery moved that operation to Indiana and later Arkansas will be returned.
“That’s my goal,” she said.
Cammack said he read about the sale in the Wall Street Journal and was encouraged to find out that Wild Turkey will become Campari’s first bourbon line.
“This company is big in the spirits industry,” Cammack said. “This adds an upscale product to their offering list. Hopefully when they come in they can increase employment.”
Erica Sluder, the economic development authority’s contact with Bluegrass Area Development District, also welcomed the news.
“On behalf of the Anderson County EDA, we welcome Wild Turkey’s new owners with open arms,” she said in a statement. “Our highest expectations are that Wild Turkey will remain in Lawrenceburg as a successful and growing operation with potential to not only preserve the current employment, but perhaps to expand its operations here in the near future.”
E-mail Ben Carlson at email@example.com.