The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Lion buys 50 per cent of Four Pillars

By Andy Young

Lion and Four Pillars have announced a deal which sees Lion buying a 50 per cent stake in the Four Pillars business.

Four Pillars was established in 2013 by Stuart Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie and Matt Jones, and Gregor told TheShout, this is a great day for Australian craft distilling, and that the decision to sell came after a number of entities had approached Four Pillars looking to make an investment.

“We have, over the last 18 months, been approached by a lot of people,” Gregor said. “By that I mean private equity, wealthy individuals as well as trade partners and more than one trade partner has approached us.

“Lion just felt the best and I like the fact they are based in Australia. I was a bit afraid of us not being the number one gin in a portfolio, that we might get lost in a company with three or four other spirits brands or gins brands.

“Lion are very genuine about their desire to get into craft spirits and particularly the desire to get into Australian spirits and they are a good business populated by good people.

“This is a very great day, not just for Four Pillars but for Australian craft distilling because finally everyone understands how good Aussie spirits can be and that a big business like Lion is interested enough to pay a fairly good amount of money for half of a pretty good spirits business.”

Gregor added: “We have a terrific relationship with the senior management at Lion and reckon this is the start of a really exciting new chapter for our business. It’s great to be in business with people you want to be in business with.”

Lion’s Managing Director, James Brindley, was also delighted with the deal.

“The partnership with Four Pillars is really exciting for Lion, as we venture into new categories outside our core beer business,” Brindley said.

“What Matt, Cam and Stu have done in creating Four Pillars in just over five years is nothing short of remarkable and we want them to keep their hands on the wheel, while we offer advice, counsel and assistance.”

Lion’s craft credentials lie in its beer business which includes James Squire, Malt Shovel and Furphy. Little Creatures is also part of the portfolio and Lion adopted a similar strategy in buying that business, by making an initial investment, before buying the business outright in 2012.

Gregor told TheShout that the idea of entering a 50-50 partnership was particularly attractive, because he and the other owners were not ready to sell everything.

“We weren’t ready to sell the business as a whole, I don’t think we wanted to and I don’t think that Lion were ready to buy it 100 per cent. From our point of view we’ve still got so much more to do. And I just thought if we are going to have a partnership, let’s just do this 50-50. It just made sense.”

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