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Ole Smoky Distillery sells stake to Apax

Tennessee-based spirits producer Ole Smoky has sold a majority share to private equity company Apax Partners.

Ole Smoky produces whiskey and moonshine

Apax has bought the controlling stake from investment firm Centerview Capital, which invested in Ole Smoky in 2013.

Robert Hall, CEO of Ole Smoky, said: “Ole Smoky is a true pioneer in the spirits industry and the business continues to go from strength to strength.

“I’m pleased to welcome Apax, who have the right skills and insights to partner with us in the next phase of our growth journey.

“We want to thank the team at Centerview Capital for their commitment and partnership over the past eight years as we have significantly increased the size of our business and expanded our brands.”

Ole Smoky, which was was established in 2010 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has almost quadrupled in size under Centerview Capital’s ownership.

The distillery is looking to accelerate the its growth rate through investment and the acquisition of American whiskeys with its Apax partnership.

Joe Baker, founder of Ole Smoky, added: “We are excited to partner with Apax as we enter the next chapter of our business. I’m most proud that, alongside my wife Jessi, and partners Cory Cottongim, Tony Breeden, and Chuck Edwards, we built a business from a small shop in our hometown of Gatlinburg into a Tennessee brand that supports hundreds of families, and is now sold in stores across the world.

“With the combined experience and knowledge of Apax and our outstanding management team, we believe we can accelerate our impressive trajectory, sharing our premium spirits with more customers, in more places.”

Baker and co-founder Cory Cottongim will remain a shareholder of the spirits producer.

The transaction is predicted to close by April 2022, and financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Nick Hartman, partner at Apax, said: “Having analysed the beverage alcohol space closely over the last several years, we have long been impressed by Ole Smoky’s brand reputation, authentic product offering and loyal customer base.

“The brand has enduring momentum and clear potential to become a leading spirits platform. We look forward to working closely with management, Joe and Robert to leverage our experience and operational know-how to continue to delight customers and achieve continued success.”

In 2021, the producer saw a record number of visitors, with 5.7 million guests stepping through its doors. This is a jump from its visitor numbers in 2018, which clocked in at 4.1 million.

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