Smithfield to account for Seagram auction

US drinks and media giant Seagram has appointed Smithfield Financial to handle all financial PR surrounding the pounds 5bn auction of its drinks portfolio.

Industry sources say the City PR agency is understood to be working on a pan-European basis, although both Smithfield chairman John Kiely and Seagram drinks business director of communications and PR, Sue Taylor, declined to comment.

It is believed the agency was appointed following a competitive pitch.

Seagram has set the bid deadline for its spirits and wine arm for 11 December, ahead of its merger with French media group Vivendi.

Three bidders are fighting it out for the drinks business, which includes Chivas Regal whisky, Martell brandy and Captain Morgan rum.

Drinks firm Allied Domecq is in the running against two rival consortia: Diageo, now paired with France's Pernod Ricard, and Bacardi with its allies, US Jack Daniel's owner Brown Forman and Swedish Vin & Spirit, which owns Absolut vodka.

The auction has already hit the business pages, having turned into an all-out legal and communications battle.

Allied Domecq is refusing to sign confidentiality agreements and enter due diligence. A row has also broken out over Seagram's best seller, Captain Morgan rum.

Allied claims pre-emptive rights over the rum brand, having signed a deal with Distileria Seralles, Puerto Rican supplier of Captain Morgan.

Vin & Spirit has also said a change of ownership could mean cancellation of its agreement with Seagram.

But Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier has said he still expects to announce the preferred bidder for Seagram's drinks arm by the end of the year.

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