Activist investor Bill Ackman has been given a four-week deadline to propose changes to the board of Fortune Brands,
the company that is parent to Jim Beam, Maker's Mark
, as well as Pinnacle and Scotty Cameron golf
equipment, which could lead to the break-up of the conglomerate.
Since disclosing his holding last month, Mr Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, has kept quiet about his plans. However, his record suggests he wants Fortune's board to explore breaking up its stable of consumer
brands starting with its spirits
business, which includes Jim Beam whiskey
and that distillery's small-batch Bourbon
brands, and Courvoisier cognac.
Ackman holds an 11% stake in the company, which has always been viewed as an odd throw-back type conglomerate of disassociated businesses. Besides the spirits brands, and golf equipment, Fortune also operates home and home
-security businesses and brands such as Moen, Masterlock, as well as kitchen cabinet brands.
In the past month, Ackman has held talks with Fortune's management about its corporate structure, shareholder value, etc. Ackman has four weeks to file a slate of his own candidates for the company's board to be voted on at the general meeting in April.
The most obvious buyers of FB's liquor
businesses are drinks giants Diageo and Pernod Ricard of France. Gruppo Campari, which owns Wild Turkey and other brands, also could be interested in acquiring some of the brands. Bacardi would also be a factor in bidding. It is possible that Fortune Brands spirits brands would go to different companies, each looking for its own strategic additions.
Fortune's other brands include Cruzan Rum
, Canadian Club, Effen Vodka
, Ardmore single-malt, Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry, Teacher's Scotch Whiskey and DeKuyper spirits.
Fortune Brands shares are trading around $60.00, up more than 10% since October 7, and up from its 52-week low of $37.05