January 29, 2008

Wine and Spirits Distributor Expands in Nebraska

By John Keenan, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Jan. 29--Republic National Distributing Co. has become the majority investor in Nebraska Wine & Spirits and has signed a letter of intent to acquire an interest in Omaha's Republic Beverage Co., formerly United Distillers Products Co.

Local management teams will remain in place at both operations, according to press releases from Republic National.

The release quotes Republic Beverage president Ted Friedland as saying that Republic National was "the clear choice to ensure that our employees, customers and supplier partners would have a bright future."

Republic Beverage Co., as United Distillers Products Co., has been in Omaha since 1893.

Nebraska Wine & Spirits, which will become RNDC-Nebraska, has 108 employees statewide. It was founded in 1975.

Paul Epstein, who will serve as chief executive officer for the new company, said he was "thrilled to be part of a fabulous, growing organization that has the same passion for our business as the Epstein family and its employees." He is the son of Nebraska Wine & Spirit founder Harold Epstein.

Representatives from both Nebraska Wine & Spirits and Republic Beverage Co. declined to comment further.

Some local restaurant owners had been aware of the change, which was announced to the beverage trade press last week.

Told that local management teams would remain in place at both distributors, Matt Stamp of V. Mertz said "I certainly hope so. . . . We've forged relationships with a lot of those people.

"We're a local restaurant, and we like to do business with people locally," he said.

Dee Graves of Piccolo's said she has been working with the same Republic Beverage Co. and RNDC-Nebraska salespeople as she did before the acquisitions.

"When they don't know you as a buyer, it's a lot harder," she said, adding that so far, the transition has worked well.

Republic National is the second-largest distributor of premium wine and spirits in the United States, with wholly or partly owned operations in 18 states, including Nebraska, and the District of Columbia.

"We are happy to be entering Nebraska and believe there is a good opportunity for growth in the market," Tom Cole, president of Republic National, said in the press release.

Cole could not be reached Monday afternoon for further comment.


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