Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Champagne Taittinger to stay in the family

Published:  23 July, 2008

Taittinger Champagne is set to return to the ownership of its founding family in a deal worth in excess of 600 million (410 million).

Starwood, the US investment group, which bought the Champagne house last year as part of a complex takeover of the wider Taittinger family interests, has announced that it is in detailed negotiations with the family and Credit Agricole du Nord Est, after selecting its bid from the eight final offers received.

The negotiations concern not only the Champagne house but also Domaine Carneros, the Taittinger estate in California, and Bouvet-Ladubay, the Loire sparkling wine producer.

Closing bids were considered over the Bank Holiday weekend.

There will be relief in France that Taittinger is to remain in French hands.

It is believed that among other bidders were Freixenet, the largest producer of cava, and UB, the Indian conglomerate, which was believed to have submitted a bid very close to that of the Taittingers.

Pressure had been building on Starwood not to sell to UB, which is headed by the colourful entrepreneur Vijay Mallya.

Before the deal was sealed, the Taittinger works council in Reims contacted Starwood to say it feared a possible break-up of the company if UB were the successful bidder. It urged the US company to sell to members of the family headed by Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger.

At the same time, the Comit Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, the industry's governing body, expressed concern about the possibility of Taittinger falling into Indian control.

India does not recognise the international status of the Champagne appellation, which the CIVC feared could have been weakened if UB had been the successful bidder.

Mallya had sought to address the anxieties and issued a statement, that said: 'If our bid is retained, we will rely on Taittinger's current management teams, and we want them to continue to lead the brand and play a primary role in the company's development strategy.'

He also promised to respect the Champagne appellation.

Starwood said that it had chosen the Taittinger family bid 'based on its highly attractive financial offer' and 'sensitivity to other criteria previously set'.

Once the deal goes through, Taittinger will be a highly endebted house.

Details of the finacial terms with Credit Agricole are unknown, but there are some concerns that Taittinger may have to sell some of its extensive vineyard holdings in Champagne or divest itself of other assets to reduce long-term pressure on the balance sheet.

Patrick McGrath, managing director of Taittinger's UK agent, Hatch Mansfield, said: 'We are delighted that it looks as though Taittinger will continue to be a family-managed Champagne house under the leadership of Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger.'