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Wisdom Co. Acquisition to Form No. 2 Beer Importer

October 16, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

In its bid to become one of the nation's two largest beer importers, Wisdom Import Sales Co. of Irvine on Tuesday purchased Cibco Importers Inc. of Houston for an undisclosed sum, according to Frank Wisdom, president of Wisdom Import.

The two companies are expected to formally announce the purchase later this week. Wisdom hopes the acquisition eventually will make the company the second largest beer importer in the country with a greatly expanded geographical base. Wisdom currently ranks third in U. S. import sales behind Van Munching & Co. of New York, which imports Heineken, and Martlett Importing Co., also of New York, which distributes Canada's Molson's beers.

Industry sources estimate that Wisdom paid more than $4 million for Cibco. For that price, Wisdom changes from a regional importer serving 14 Western states to a national company serving all 50 states, Wisdom said.

"Within the next two years, we expect big increases that could double sales to $100 million," a year, Wisdom said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Atlanta--where the country's largest brewers and importers are meeting at a national convention.

Wisdom said his 51-year-old company also is negotiating to add some new, big-name brands to its list of imports, which now includes Tecate, Carta Blanca, Bohemia and Chihuahua beers. "In order to contemplate (adding) the new brands, we have to be in a national position," Wisdom said.

Wisdom, the longtime president and majority stockholder of Wisdom Import, was appointed chairman of Cibco Importers four years ago when that company began to suffer depressed sales. Wisdom and Cibco import many of the same brands but have served separate parts of the country. The big Mexican supplier of the two companies, Cerveceria Cuahtemoc S.A. of Monterey, Mexico, asked Wisdom to step in and help straighten Cibco out, Wisdom said.

The merged companies are expected to post combined sales this year of nearly $50 million, Wisdom estimated.

Executives from two of the brewing industry's top trade publications agree that the purchase is a good one for Wisdom. "It opens a lot of doors for them," said Mac Brighten, publisher of Modern Brewery Age.

"It's a natural," added Dori Whitney, editor of Brewers Digest. "The two companies have carried the same brands for a long time."

Although imported brews account for less than 10% of beer industry sales, they are the fastest-growing segment, Whitney said. While the beer industry reported flat sales in 1984, imports posted a 14% sales increase, she said.

Ten-year-old Cibco's operations will be folded into Wisdom Import, which will take on all 30 Cibco employees--expanding its payroll to about 80--Wisdom said.

Cibco President Manuel G. Ramos will become vice president of Wisdom's East Coast sales operation, Wisdom added.

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