Glenfiddich: Clearing the decks for expansion?

In a global industry that is continually shrinking in terms of how many owners there are -- think Brown-Forman, Pernod, etc. -- it's newsworthy when there is activity in a family-owned business.

William Grant & Sons, the distiller of Glenfiddich whisky, has been playing boardroom bingo, with managing director Simon MacDonald leaving to join Kabel-X, a technology company. As a result, the company has restructured into four divisions, with the head of each reporting to Roland van Bommel, the company's chief executive.

Mark Teasdale is managing director for North America, Gordon Dron for Europe, Kevin Fong for Asia Pacific and James Doherty for Latin America. Steven Sturgeon remains global marketing director.

Does any of this matter to those of us who basically are interested in what's being bottled under the Glenfiddich label, the world's No. 1-selling malt whisky? Probably not, especially considering it is doubtful the 120-year-old company would mess with a flagship brand that helped it gain an 8.1% increase in pre-tax profits for calendar year 2005.

However, William Grant & Sons is looking to expand a brand line that currently includes Grant's, The Balvenie and Hendrick's Gin. Last year it moved into the brandy field by buying Raynal & Cie, a French firm based in Cognac that produces such labels as Three Barrels. According to The Scotsman newspaper, "in October it was linked with a possible move for Invergordon Distillers, the Whyte & Mackay business that produces mainly own-label Scotch."

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