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Southern Comfort brand sold

BRUCE SCHREINER

Southern Comfort’s parent company said Thursday it is selling the iconic brand to a rival liquor company as part of a $543.5 million deal.

Brown-Forman Corp. said its Southern Comfort and Tuaca brands will be sold to Louisiana-based Sazerac. Tuaca is a relatively small premium

liqueur brand.

Sazerac President/CEO Mark Brown said the family-owned, privately held company was excited to acquire the two brands and looks forward to “years of successful brand building.”

The sale is expected to close by March 1, Brown-Forman said. It will result in a one-time operating income gain of about $475 million for the company in fiscal 2016, it said.

Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga said the sale reflected the Louisville, Kentucky-based company’s evolving portfolio strategy and its focus on top-priority brands. Brown-Forman’s dominant brand is Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.

As for Southern Comfort and Tuaca, he said: “Both brands played important roles in the Brown-Forman success story, and we will have fond memories of the enjoyment they brought to consumers, our partners and to Brown-Forman.”

Brown-Forman acquired Southern Comfort in 1979, but the brand has struggled in recent years. The company launched marketing campaigns in recent years to try to reinvigorate the brand.

Brown-Forman said last month that net sales for the Southern Comfort brand had dropped by 7 percent in the first half of the company’s fiscal year. The company pointed to weak sales at bars and restaurants and competition from new flavored whiskies.