AUGUSTA (AP) – A multi-sided dispute over the state’s designation of Martignetti Companies of Massachusetts as the operator of Maine’s wholesale liquor business will be resolved by the creation of a new partnership in which Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer is majority owner, according to an agreement in principle outlined Monday.

State officials announced that Martignetti Companies, which will manage the business, and Pine State Trading Company of Augusta, which will operate the network’s warehouse and oversee product distribution to nearly 300 agency liquor stores, will become minority owners.

Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer, an also-ran in the bidding for a 10-year lease with the state, is described as a private equity investment firm with more than $2 billion of committed capital.

State officials said that as part of the new agreement, court appeals of the original contract award will be dropped.

Separate agreement

MaineCentric of Auburn, another bidder, reached a separate agreement, according to state officials.

The state will remain the administrator of Maine’s wholesale liquor business and retain authority for liquor pricing and determinations of what products are offered for sale.

A bidding price of $125 million was set by the state. Competitors were allowed to propose financial sweeteners and state officials said the new partnership will assume the same commitments that Martignetti made, including the level of service and profit-sharing to the state.

When Martignetti was selected as the winning bidder in January, officials said the companies’ revenue-sharing option could produce an additional $25 million to $40 million over the course of a 10-year lease.

Perfect partnership’

Proceeds from the privatization are to be used to help balance the current two-year state budget.

“This agreement represents a unique opportunity for both the state of Maine and its partners in the liquor business that promises to provide the maximum opportunity for agency stores to increase their level of sales and profitability,” the state commissioner of finance and administration, Rebecca Wyke, said in a statement.

State officials have been involved in negotiations with Martignetti for several weeks.

“From the state’s point of view, we will be entering into a contract that represents the perfect partnership,” Gov. John Baldacci said.

Baldacci characterized the parties as “a family owned company with more than 70 years of experience in the liquor business to manage the new partnership; a strong investment firm with substantial resources; and finally a tremendously successful company located right here in Augusta that will provide individually customized service to agency stores.”

Maine has a long history as a liquor control state. It was the first state in the nation to outlaw the sale of alcoholic beverages, in 1851, and remained a dry state until 1934, shortly after the nationwide Prohibition was repealed.


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