The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has been hit with its fourth appeal over a dropped competition investigation, as the rum wars between Bacardi and Pernod Ricard take a further twist.
Pernod Ricard subsidiary Campbell Distillers has filed an appeal challenging the regulator’s decision to drop its investigation into rival drinks company Bacardi.
The regulator has an ongoing problem with disgruntled complainants, and this latest appeal comes in the wake of reversals by the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) in the Bettercare and Express Dairies investigations.
The OFT began invest-igating Bacardi in June 2000, but this January the regulator decided to close its inquiry, despite an announcement in June 2002 that it proposed to find that the distiller had behaved anticompetitively.
Sources close to the case say that Bacardi, represented by David Vaughan QC of Brick Court Chambers and Simmons & Simmons, played a clever tactical game. The reverse followed voluntary assurances by Bacardi to limit agreements for in-bar drinks promotions.
Bacardi has instructed Simmons competition partner Tony Woodgate and is understood to have requested leave to intervene in the appeal. Pernod Ricard is using DLA.
The bitter feud between Bacardi and Pernod Ricard dates back to the Cuban Revolution, when the Bacardi family quit the country and its distilling business was seized by Castro. Pernod Ricard has a joint venture with the Cuban government to produce the Havana Club brand, which Bacardi once owned.
Matrix Chambers barrister Ken Macdonald QC has replaced Sir David Calvert-Smith QC as Director of Public Prosecutions. Macdonald has defended alleged members of al-Qaeda and the Real IRA. He also specialises in the criminal aspects of competition, banking and excise frauds, espionage and the illegal sale of military parts.