Slaughters tapped alongside US duo as Diageo eyes tequila buy

Slaughter and May has taken a lead role alongside Cravath Swaine & Moore and Sullivan & Cromwell on drinks company Diageo’s potential acquisition of the tequila brand Jose Cuervo.

Jose Cuervo tequila

The deal, reported to be worth up to $3bn (£1.9m) in cash and shares, would see the UK beverages company behind Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Smirnoff buy Cuervo from Mexico’s Beckmann family. Diageo already has a contract to distribute the alcoholic drink outside Mexico.

Slaughters is advising longstanding client Diageo on the negotiations, which are expected to last several more weeks. Press reports suggest the deal could be announced on Thursday (23 August) when Diageo announces its annual results.

The Slaughters team covering UK advice includes corporate partner Tim Pharoah and tax partners Steve Edge and Sara Luder.

Sullivan is acting for Diageo in the current talks on the US side, with the mandate following a number of previous deals on which the US firm has advised the drinks giant.

Cravath has taken a role advising the wealthy Beckmann family, which owns Cuervo.

Background to this deal:

Richard Morrissey
Richard Morrissey

Slaughters corporate partner Kathy Hughes, tax specialist Edge, Brussels competition partner John Boyce and IP partner Susie Middlemiss advised Diageo last year on its £1.3bn acquisition of Mey Icki. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton acted for the seller, private equity groups TPG Capital and Actera (28 February 2011). Hughes, who led on the corporate side on the Mey Icki deal, is currently on a six-week sabbatical.

Slaughters finance partner Stephen Powell led for the client on its innovative 2010 scheme for reducing its pension deficit in which it placed maturing Scotch whisky worth more than £500m into a pension funding vehicle (12 July 2010).

Previous Sullivan deals for Diageo included its $900m joint venture with Dutch distiller Ketel One, with corporate partners Richard Morrissey in London and Frank Aquila in New York advising (15 February 2008). The relationship dates back to 1997, when Aquila and Morrissey advised Grand Metropolitan on its £23m merger with Guinness to form Diageo.