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JP acquires majority stake in Tortuga

Published:Friday | December 23, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Boxes of Tortuga rum cake on display. - File

Steven Jackson, Business Reporter

Local conglomerate Jamaica Producers Group (JP) yesterday announced a 62 per cent acquisition of the company that owns the Tortuga rum cakes brand for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition aims to double Tortuga International Holding's (TIH) annual revenues currently at some US$10 million via the aggressive exploitation of the cruise ship retail trade.

The deal gives JP majority ownership of the company and the brand.

TIH, a market leader in the supply of speciality foods and rums across the Caribbean, manufactures its products in Barbados, Jamaica and Cayman Islands, with a distribution hub in South Florida.

"There is growth in tourism-related opportunities across the Caribbean, and a connection between great high-quality speciality foods and products offers a global growth potential from visitors," Jeffrey Hall, managing director of JP, told the Financial Gleaner.

Management of the company will remain unchanged. And the founding shareholders, husband-and-wife team, Robert and Carlene Hamaty, will continue to be active investors in the business, Hall said.

Family business

TIH is headed by chief executive officer Marcus Simmons. Marketing manager Monique Simmons-Hamaty told the Financial Gleaner that the acquisition would position the brand to a wider market.

"The deal means a lot to us as a family business. There is only so far that you can take the brand. We believe that JP can allow us to grow and achieve our vision to continue being the market leader in the Caribbean and increase our presence globally," said Simmons-Hamaty.

The Tortuga brand has been around since 1984.

Tortuga Rum Company currently has its largest market share in the Cayman Islands. Robert and Carlene Hamaty started the company while they were both employed by the island's national airline, Cayman Airways.

Robert also worked previously for Air Jamaica.

"While piloting for Air Jamaica, Robert noticed passengers boarding his plane carrying Bermuda Rum. Realising Bermuda did not have the resources to distil their own rum, he investigated, only to discover that it was actually made in Jamaica, and shipped to Bermuda to be bottled. That was when he decided the Cayman Islands should have their own rum too," said the company's website.

That led to the formation of Tortuga Rum.

"They started the company with two blended rums, Tortuga Gold and Tortuga Light. Tortuga Rum is a combination of Jamaican rum and Barbados rum specially blended for the Cayman Islands; therefore it is like no other," the website says

This is the second big acquisition for JP this quarter, following its joint venture with Pan Jamaica to buy Mavis Bank Coffee Factory (MBCF) in October.

The sale price of MBCF remains undisclosed but seller Development Bank of Jamaica said it would net US$4.5 million (J$387 million) from the sale of the assets and that Jamaica Producers/Pan Jam would sink another US$4.5 million of capital into the business under a five-year development plan agreed by the parties to improve MBCF's physical plant and commercial capacity, as well as product quality.