Stiff Drink

Pernod Ricard aims for global liquor dominance by paying a premium for the prize vodka Absolut

Pernod Ricard hopes Absolut will grab market share from Diageo's Smirnoff.

Patrick Ricard, boss of the french drinks giant that bears his name, enjoys a glass of pastis before lunch. But at a recent breakfast in his private dining room overlooking the Eiffel Tower, he was strictly a coffee man, despite having just pulled off a deal worth celebrating with something stronger. In March, Pernod Ricard stunned its rivals by landing one of the biggest prizes in the drinks sector: Absolut, the world's leading premium vodka, whose acquisition, Ricard concedes, was "a bit of a coup."

Not everyone agreed. As Ricard buttered his toast, the markets battered his firm for paying $8.34...

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