Beverage giant Constellation Brands is continuing its buying spree, announcing today that it is spending $80 million to acquire a 40 percent interest in the well-known Italian producer Ruffino.
The Folonari family, which has owned of Ruffino since 1913, is maintaining a majority interest and will continue to manage the Tuscany-based company. The European investment firm Investindustrial still holds a minority interest.
The Folonaris are retaining sole ownership of the 4,000 acres of Ruffino estates in Tuscany, including 1,500 acres of vineyards, and the 100-acre Borgo Conventi estate in Friuli.
Franciscan Estates, the fine-wine division of Constellation Brands, will oversee distribution of Ruffino's products in the United States. "The wine brands and rich heritage of Ruffino give us a much-desired place in the attractive Italian premium wine category," said Franciscan CEO Jon Moramarco, in a statement.
"We're excited about partnering with Constellation," Adolfo Folonari, who oversees Ruffino's international operations, said in a statement. "We believe that Franciscan Estates will dedicate resources, focus and distribution capabilities that we need to ensure a robust and prosperous future for making Ruffino more successful."
In June 2000, following disagreements over management of Ruffino, the Folonari family split, with several members leaving to form their own company, and Ruffino's holdings were divided up.
Publicly traded Constellation, which is based in Fairport, N.Y., has been growing by leaps and bounds lately. The Ruffino deal comes on the heels of Constellation's $1 billon bid for Robert Mondavi Corp. in November. The Mondavi board of directors accepted the offer, but it is subject to stockholder approval. A shareholder's meeting is scheduled for Dec. 22.
Constellation is also involved in a three-way venture to acquire California's Chalone Wine Group, along with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) of France and Napa Valley's Huneeus family, who own Quintessa. The partners plan to create a new high-end wine company, but the deal is still pending Chalone shareholder approval early next year.
In recent years, Constellation has been transforming itself from a company built largely on inexpensive wine brands--such as Almaden, Paul Masson and Richard's Wild Irish Rose--into one that owns well-respected California names such as Ravenswood, Simi and Franciscan Oakville.
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