AUGUSTA — In anticipation of Maine’s wholesale liquor contract going out to a competitive bidding process, serial entrepreneur Ford Reiche, founder of Safe Handling in Auburn, has submitted to the state a letter of interest in bidding on a new liquor distribution contract on behalf of his new company, Dirigo Spirit.

The contract to manage the state’s wholesale liquor distribution, which expires in 2014, was the subject of a legislative hearing Friday morning.

In that letter of interest, Reiche suggested that a competitive bidding process for that contract would “bring about the best candidate selection and results for the state of Maine.”

Reiche told Mainebiz he expects his background managing Maine’s largest logistics company would serve the state well if he wins the contract and would help the state “solve an enormous (fiscal) problem it’s had since 2004.” Mainebiz recognized Reiche as its large company Business Leader of the Year in 2008.

State officials have said that renegotiation of the contract could bring the state an additional $13 million a year, and that Mainers buy an estimated 584,000 cases of liquor in New Hampshire each year to resell in Maine, costing the state between $4 million and $11 million annually.

The last agreement, signed with Maine Beverage Co. — a joint venture of the Massachusetts-based Marginetti Cos., Pine State Trading Co. in Augusta and the New York-based financial group Lindsay Goldberg — was signed in 2004 for $125 million.

The Press Herald reported that the market value of that contract was estimated to be $378 million in a 2009 study by consulting firm Deloitte & Touche.

Rep. Michael Carey, D-Lewiston, told the Press Herald that the LePage administration supports a competitive bidding process for the contract and that he knew of two Maine-based businesses interested in bidding, though he did not identify them to the paper.

Maine is one of 19 so-called control states that oversee and regulate the sale of liquor. The state gets about $23 million a year with the current contract.

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