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Constellation buys craft brewer Ballast Point

Constellation Brands is moving into the craft beer market with a $1 billion deal for Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits.

Constellation, whose beer division is based in Chicago, will add the large and growing craft brewer to its stable of imported beers and premium wines and spirits.

“Along with imports, craft beer is a key driver of growth and premiumization within the beer industry,” Constellation chief executive Rob Sands said in a news release. “Ballast Point has certainly been a key driver of that growth. … [A]nd we look forward to strengthening our position in the high-end beer segment with what is arguably the most premium major brand in the entire craft beer business.”

Constellation’s beer brands include Corona and Modelo.

Ballast Point, in a Facebook post, said it chose to sell to Constellation to fund its growth rather than to take the company public in an initial stock offering.

The San Diego-based brewer makes more than 40 styles of beer and sells in more than 30 states. It also makes rum, gin, vodka and whiskey.

“To achieve [our] vision, we needed to find the right partner. The team at Constellation shares our values, entrepreneurial spirit and passion for beer, and has a proven track record of helping successful premium brands reach the next level of growth and scale,” Jack White, founder of Ballast Point, said in a news release.

Ballast Point will operate as a separate company with its existing management in place. Ballast Point said it expects to sell nearly 4 million cases in 2015, doubling its sales last year.

The deal is another example of a big craft brewer pairing up with a deep-pocketed suitor. Lagaunitas Brewing sold a 50 percent stake to Heineken this summer; Goose Island was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011.

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