Hensley Beverage Acquires Golden Eagle Distributors

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Golden Eagle Distributors, an Anheuser-Busch InBev wholesaler based in Tucson, Ariz. has announced the sale of its 9 million case beer and non-alcoholic beverage operation to its larger competitor, Phoenix-based Hensley Beverage.

Hensley, also an A-B InBev wholesaler, sells approximately 20 million cases of beer and non-alcoholic beverages throughout Arizona. The combination of the two companies means nearly all A-B InBev products — about 30 million cases — sold in state will be controlled by a single distributor.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed and the transaction is expected to close on March 14.

Since 1995, Golden Eagle was led by a family leadership team consisting of three primary shareholders: majority owner Ginny Clements served as the company’s chair while son and daughter Chris and Kimberly Clements, who served as CEO and president, respectively, led day-to-day operations.

In a conversation with Brewbound, Golden Eagle’s Kimberly Clements said a majority of her company’s 430 employees will retain their jobs, noting that some positions will likely be eliminated during the integration of the two companies.

“We weren’t necessarily looking to sell the business,” she told Brewbound. “This opportunity presented itself and, we took all factors into consideration. We have a lot of respect for Hensley and for how they treat their people.”

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Kimberly Clements at the 2015 Brewbound Session

Kimberly Clements said her family would help facilitate the transition and, upon the closing of the deal, will no longer be involved in the business. She said she plans to continue working in the beer industry in some capacity.

“It’s time to move on and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and we’re doing this by selling to another family-owned Arizona business,” Ginny Clements said in a statement. “Hensley and Company has an outstanding reputation as a solid Arizona business that puts their employees first, so we have every confidence that they will treat this Tucson-based operation with the same philosophy.”

Established in 1955, Hensley employs about 800 and services more than 8,000 retail accounts throughout Arizona; Cindy Hensley McCain, the wife of Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, owns the company. The company sells approximately 850 different beer, wine, spirits and non-alcoholic brands.

With the acquisition, Hensley becomes one of the 15 largest wholesalers in the U.S. More than 50 percent of its sales come from A-B InBev, products, the company estimates.

“The purchase of Golden Eagle is a significant milestone in Hensley’s 60 year history of doing business in Arizona,” Andy McCain, Hensley’s COO and CFO, said in a press release. “We anticipate a smooth transition as we begin to convert all of Golden Eagle’s expansive territory to Hensley Beverage Company’s. We are bullish on the future prospects for our great state, and look forward to continuing our contribution in helping to perpetuate Arizona’s legacy of growth.”

In addition to prominent craft brands like Ninkasi, Dogfish Head — which Golden Eagle sells — and Firestone Walker, Founders and Deschutes — which Hensley sells — both companies also have overlapping craft books that include products from Sierra Nevada, Odell Brewing, Goose Island and Craft Brew Alliance.

It’s unclear whether those companies will look to change wholesalers as a result of the merger.

“I am sure that some of the supplier partners will be looking at other routes to market,” Kimberly Clements told Brewbound.

Clements estimates that craft, non-alcoholic and other non-AB products made up less than 15 percent of Golden Eagle’s business.

A-B, which retains a right of first refusal to purchase any wholesale partner located in states where its is legal to operate in multiple tiers, did not make a formal offer for Golden Eagle’s business, Clements told Brewbound. Recall that A-B recently purchased Arizona’s largest craft brewery, Four Peaks Brewing, which also operates a number of retail outposts.