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Tampa’s Pepin Distribuing will sell to Maryland investment firm

The Pepin family is expected to keep running the 50-year-old beer distribution company.
A forklift passes through the warehouse at Pepin Distributing in Tampa in 2013. After 50 years in Florida, the beer distribution company has reached a deal to be sold to a Maryland private equity firm.
A forklift passes through the warehouse at Pepin Distributing in Tampa in 2013. After 50 years in Florida, the beer distribution company has reached a deal to be sold to a Maryland private equity firm. [ Times (2013) ]
Published Jul. 14

Tampa beer distributor Pepin Distributing, which has shipped Anheuser-Busch products across the city for more than five decades, has reached a deal to be sold to a Maryland investment firm.

CEO Tom Pepin, whose father founded the company in the early 1960s, confirmed the sale to Redwood Capital Investment, the private equity arm of Baltimore billionaire Jim Davis, but declined to disclose the price. He said the deal has been in the works for five months and is expected to be finalized by Monday.

“This is more of a transaction agreement based on an infusion of capital to fund growth,” Pepin wrote in an email. “This was done to strengthen our competitive position in the market.”

In a letter to employees, Pepin wrote that “the DNA of our industry has changed dramatically,” and the Redwood deal would “strengthen our company for many years to come.”

“This investment will enable us ALL to grow and prosper,” Pepin wrote to employees.

Founded in Gainesville, the company took over Anheuser-Busch’s Tampa region in 1967. Today the company has more than 350 employees and a portfolio of nearly 180 alcoholic and non-alcoholic brands, according to its website. It operates from an approximately 330,000-square-foot facility on nearly 35 acres on N 50th Street.

Tom Pepin stands for a portrait at Pepin Distributing in Tampa in 2011. His family plans to sell the beer distribution company to a Maryland private equity firm later this year.
Tom Pepin stands for a portrait at Pepin Distributing in Tampa in 2011. His family plans to sell the beer distribution company to a Maryland private equity firm later this year. [ Times (2011) ]

Pepin was a widely known name in Tampa Bay before the area built a reputation as a craft beer destination.

The family’s late patriarch Art Pepin and his children have donated and pledged millions to fund the AdventHealth Pepin Heart Institute near the University of South Florida. Their gifts help launched the Pepin Academies, a charter school for students with special needs. The Pepin names adorns the University of Tampa’s soccer field, and the TPepin’s Hospitality Centre is a popular event and banquet hall.

Art and Polly Pepin were high-profile figures in Tampa’s social scene, hosting lavish parties at their Temple Terrace home on the Hillsborough River, where the guests included Ted Williams, Bob Hope, Joe DiMaggio and Cary Grant.

Related: Polly Pepin, wife of philanthropist Art Pepin, dies at 87

Tom Pepin will remain the company’s CEO and Greg McLeod will remain its president. Pepin told employees the transaction “will not be disruptive” to the company’s workforce or culture. The company’s name will not change, and Pepin said his family and the company will remain active in the community.

This isn’t Redwood’s first beer distribution acquisition. In 2019, the firm purchased Houston’s Silver Eagle Distributors, then the nation’s largest independent Anheuser-Busch distributor, for an undisclosed sum. Two years before that, Redwood invested in another Anheuser-Busch distributor, Chicago’s Lakeshore Beverage.

Also in 2019, the firm bought an investment in Morgan Automotive Group, which operates 46 car dealerships around Florida, including more than a dozen in Tampa Bay.

Representatives from Redwood Capital Management did not return messages left Tuesday.