Buffett's Berkshire buys beer, liquor distributor

NEW YORK Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:00pm EDT

Billionaire financier and Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett eats ice cream as he walks during the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska in this May 2, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files

Billionaire financier and Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett eats ice cream as he walks during the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska in this May 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Warren Buffett apparently has a taste for alcohol.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N), the billionaire investor's insurance and investment company, said on Monday its McLane Co unit has agreed to buy Kahn Ventures Inc, a wholesale distributor of distilled spirits, wine and beer in Georgia and North Carolina.

The terms were not disclosed. The acquisition was announced fewer than six weeks after Berkshire completed a $26.5 billion takeover of the railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp, its largest acquisition ever.

Berkshire said the acquisition will give Kahn and its Empire Distributors Inc and Empire Distributors of North Carolina Inc units access to greater resources. It said McLane is a food service distributor with 38 distribution centers that serve more than 60,000 stores and restaurants.

"We expect that the Empire acquisition will provide us with a solid platform for potentially acquiring other similar high quality wholesale distributors," Buffett, the world's third-richest person according to Forbes magazine, said in a statement.

Management at Kahn and the Empire units will remain in place. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and other closing conditions.

According to its website, Empire was founded in 1940 by Max Kahn, was bought in 1998 by his grandsons David and Michael Kahn. Empire said it distributes hundreds of beverages such as the Chateau Latour first growth Bordeaux, Maker's Mark bourbon, the digestif Jagermeister, and Samuel Adams beer.

Kahn Ventures did not immediately return a request for comment.

Berkshire is based in Omaha, Nebraska and has roughly 80 operating businesses that sell such things as car insurance, ice cream, industrial equipment, knives and underwear.

In Monday trading, Berkshire's Class A shares closed up $875 at $123,500. Its Class B shares rose 31 cents to $82.37.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Andre Grenon)

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