LKI, a Lipari family-owned investment company, has acquired Benchmark Beverage Co. in West Bloomfield Township. Benchmark operated for four years under the Midwest Independent Retailers Association (MIRA), also in West Bloomfield Township. The family launched Lipari Foods in 1963.
More than 800 Benchmark products are sold in Michigan including Nue Vodka, Wilderness Trail Bourbon, El Dorado Rum, Padre Azul Tequila, Khor Vodka, Beluga Vodka, Compass Box Scotches, Cask and Kettle K-Cups, Barrel Bourbon, and a large selection of Japanese whiskies. There are more than 6,000 licenses in Michigan that buy products represented by Benchmark.
“We are truly excited about the purchase of the company,” says Auday Arabo, outgoing president and CEO of the association. “It shows the evolution of the company, which has experienced more than 100 percent growth year over year since its inception four years ago.”
Arabo will leave the association to become president and CEO of Benchmark under LKI ownership.
Under terms of the purchase agreement, MIRA will retain 10-percent stock ownership in the company.
“We have been marketing and growing the brands within Benchmark Beverage Co. under MIRA, but our growth was greater than what MIRA had funds to support,” Arabo says.
The idea for the company started with Nabby Yono, former chairman of the association and long-time member, who introduced the idea to Arabo. George Zrinyi, a specialist in the spirits industry, and Burt Kassab, a local attorney, were brought in. Each of the four invested $1,000.
After 13 brokerage contracts were signed and before they sold a case, the association board decided it was a conflict for the owners to have the business, so the owners sold it to the association, Arabo says.
The association was first formed in 1910 as the Meat Cutters Association. Today, it represents more than 4,000 independent retailers in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.
Benchmark works to build new and mid-size supplier brands from the U.S. and across the globe. Its goal is to turn around failing brands in a short period of time.