Mark Anthony Group sells Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Palm Bay to Labatt for US$350 million

B.C.-based firm created Mike's Hard Lemonade in 1996, which it dubbed the world's first spirit cooler  

Mark Anthony owner Anthony von Mandl said the sale of the company's Canadian RTD products will allow greater focus on its wine and spirits businesses

Vancouver’s Mark Anthony Group is selling the rights to its ready-to-drink (RTD) brands in Canada to Labatt for US$350 million, or about $466 million Canadian. Those brands include Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Palm Bay, Okanagan Premium Ciders and Stanley Park Beers. 

The transaction enables the company to focus on its wine and spirits businesses. Mark Anthony Group founder and CEO Anthony von Mandl will retain ownership of the company’s Okanagan Valley wineries, which include Mission Hill, CedarCreek, Martin’s Lane and CheckMate.

“This is a very bold step into the future for our business,” von Mandl said. “Mark Anthony is fortunate to be operating from a position of considerable financial strength and market leadership."

Von Mandl and staff created Mike's Hard Lemonade, which he called the world's first spirit cooler, in 1996. Sales soared across Canada. He then reformulated Mike's Hard Lemonade as a malt beverage, using a different recipe, for distribution in the U.S. three years later.

“Many people don't realize that Mike's, which has become an American beverage icon, was created here in Vancouver,” von Mandl said in a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade last year.

Von Mandl's first experience with beer was when he brought Grupo Modelo's then little-known Corona brand to Canada in the mid-1980s. When that Mexican beer giant terminated von Mandl's contract in 2007, von Mandl decided to start his own brand. 

Within a couple years, he had spent what he estimated to be $20 million to build a brewery, powered by a windmill, on Annacis Island. He named the venture Turning Point Brewery and it started producing Stanley Park-branded beers.

Here is a profile of von Mandl's rise from what he describes as "penniless" to founding and being CEO of the Mark Anthony Group, which has sales that exceed $500 million annually: Anthony von Mandl: Dream Achiever.

The transaction is expected to close in the next few months.

“Once this transaction is complete, it will provide even greater financial capacity as we embark on a new era of significant investments and growth in our businesses in Canada, the United States and beyond,” von Mandl said in a November 10 release.

Mark Anthony will retain full ownership of its RTD products in the United States, where sales of these products are five times larger than in Canada.

Labatt said it will not be changing the products in any way and will use the same recipes and ingredients Mark Anthony has been using.

“The acquired brands will give Labatt an important base from which to expand in the ready-to-drink and cider segments, both of which are growing quickly and where Labatt has not previously concentrated its efforts,” Labatt said in a press release.

Labatt brews more than 60 types of beer in six different breweries across the country. Some of its brands include Alexander Keith’s and Kokanee.

with files from Glen Korstrom

ecrawford@biv.com

@EmmaHampelBIV