How the Financial Crisis of 2007 Reshaped the Rum World

In the course of researching various rum-related topics,
there’s some recent history that I keep bumping up against. Between 1997 and
2009, one company purchased several extremely important rum companies such as
Angostura and Appleton. It then went bankrupt during the world financial crisis
that started in 2007. The echoes of this bankruptcy have been heard as recently
as 2017.

Very few people these days are aware of this story. It’s
time for me to publish the basics so that I can refer to it in other writing.

What follows are some bare-bone details of what I’ve turned
up from several sources. Unfortunately, no one news story paints a complete picture,
so I’ve pieced it together from various linked sources.

The common denominator to all these stories is a set of related
companies:

CL Financial was a privately owned Trinidad and Tobago conglomerate,
and one of the largest privately held Caribbean corporations. It owned all sort
of companies, including distilled spirits producers.

In 2009, facing a liquidity crisis, it was taken over by the
government and central bank of Trinidad, which continues to own it ten years later.
(More on this at the end.)

In what follows, I will use “CL Financial” to represent this
group of companies, even though legal ownership may have been with a subsidiary.

Angostura – In 1997, CL Financial purchased
Angostura and Trinidad Distillers
, and still owns it today.

Appleton – In 2008, CL Financial purchased an 86.6
percent stake in Lascelles de Mercado & Company Limited, the parent company
of J. Wray & Nephew and Appleton
Estate
.

In 2013, Campari purchased Lascelles de Mercado from CL Financial for US $415 million. See this story also.

Saint Lucia Distillers: In 2005, the Barnard Family sold Saint Lucia Distillers
to CL Financial, although third-generation rum-maker Laurie Barnard stayed on
as Managing Director.

In 2017, Spiribam (part of GBH) purchased Saint Lucia Distillers. It’s now a sibling to Rhum Clemént and Rhum J.M.

E&A Scheer: Amsterdam-based Rum Master Blenders and Worldwide Suppliers of bulk Rum, Cachaça & Batavia Arrack. Originally a family owned company. I can’t identify the purchase date of Scheer by CL Financial, but I’ve been told it was sold back to family shareholders in 2010.

In addition to rum-related companies, CL Financial also
owned other spirit companies:

  • Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd – Scotch Whisky
    producers based in Scotland
  • Thomas Hine & Co. Ltd. – cognac producers
    based in France
  • Fassbind – Eaux-de-Vie producers based in
    Switzerland 

In 2009, the Trinidad government took over CL Financial. In 2018
they announced
plans
to sell it. The legal battles between shareholders continue to this day.

A good 2009 overview of CL Financials’ holdings can be found here.

As I learn more, I’ll update this story with more
information.

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