Sidney Frank Sues Beam for $100 M over Michael Collins

Sidney Frank Importing Company is suing Beam Inc. and Cooley Distillery for $100 million and for punitive damages, Sidney Frank announced March 1.

In the lawsuit filed New York’s Southern District Federal District Court, Sidney Frank claims Beam and Cooley breached the long-term contract with Cooley Distillery for the supply of Michael Collins Irish Whiskey and “acts of unfair competition and tortious interference.”

Beam spokesperson Clarkson Hine told Bloomberg that Beam has been in commercial discussions with Sidney Frank regarding the matter. “We are confident in our position and that we will prevail,” Cooley said.

In January 2012, Beam acquired Cooley Distillery and Sidney Frank claims it has refused to honor its existing contract.

What does this mean for the Irish whiskey drinker? However this works out, Michael Collins’ fans should be worried.

I have noticed a lack of materials from Michael Collins PR machine. Perhaps, this suit explains why. But, I doubt it will end in Sidney Frank’s favor. Even if it earns every dime requested and receive whiskey stocks again, how long will it take the courts to decide?

By the time a decision is made, Michael Collins will lose brand equity and its fans will have moved onto other Irish whiskeys. And, we’re not talking about Bushmills or Jameson here. Michael Collins is a fairly new Irish whiskey brand. The brand launched in 2006 and introduced its 10-year-old single malt in 2011.

This lawsuit could also mean absolutely nothing.

Litigation is a part of the spirits business. Just in the past three years, Wild Turkey sued Old Crow, Maker’s Mark won a landmark case against Jose Cuervo, and there’s the whole whiskey fungus suit.

What usually happens in these cases, somebody makes a big stink, the brands settle and life goes on. Very rarely do these cases go to trial. The Maker’s Mark fight over its red wax is the only recent suit to go all the way to the appeals court.

Sidney Frank has one other play. They could build their own distillery. If William Grant can Invest €35M in Tullamore Dew Distillery, surely the company behind Grey Goose could build its own distillery.

And, who would not love another Irish distillery?

Stay In Touch!