Investment firm to buy Heileman Brewing Co. Brewer's progress after bankruptcy hailed

November 02, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

G. Heileman Brewing Co., which owns the last major brewery in the Baltimore area, is ready to emerge from financial limbo as a Dallas-based investment firm prepares to buy it for $390 million.

Hicks, Muse & Co. Inc. announced yesterday that it will buy the brewer, which has $900 million in annual sales and a 5 percent share of the U.S. beer market.

"We now will have someone who is a stockholder who wants to be a stockholder," said Randy J. Smith, vice president and general counsel for Heileman. "It's a positive not only for Baltimore, but for Heileman as a whole."

Chicago-based Heileman owns the brewery in Halethorpe, which employs about 475 people. Major brands produced there include Colt 45, Champale, National Bohemian, National Premium, Black Label, Schmidt's and Weidemann.

Heileman, which had been owned by the Australian company Bond Corp. Holdings Ltd., spent 10 months in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy during 1991.

Since its reorganization, the country's fifth-largest brewery has been owned by a half-dozen banks, which were former creditors, Mr. Smith said.

"We think Heileman has had an excellent trend in recent years," said William J. Turner, who will be the new Heileman chairman once the deal is completed, probably in January.

He said the new owners would build on the existing strategy of broadening the line of Heileman's core beers and malt liquors and expanding the market of some of its regional brands.

Except for changes at the top, the company's management will remain in place, he said. "We're quite pleaed with the current management," Mr. Turner said.

Likewise, there are no plans to change the operation in Halethorpe, except for possible expansion.

"That's a possibility, if we are successful," he said. But Mr. Turner would not disclose how much Hicks, Muse plans to invest to expand in coming years.

Thomas O. Hicks, the chairman and chief executive officer of Hicks, Muse, is well-known for 1980s deals with his then-partner, Bob Haas, involving A&W Brands Inc., Dr Pepper Co. and the Seven-Up Co.

In 1989 he split with Haas and formed his new firm Hicks, Muse, which is building a $500 million buyout fund.

Besides the local operation, Heileman has breweries in La Crosse, Wis.; San Antonio; Seattle; and Portland, Ore. It has a total work force of 2,200.

Other brands include Old Style, Special Export, Lone Star, Rainier, Henry Weinhard's, Mickey's and non-alcoholic Kingsbury.

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