On Friday, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ parent company, the tobacco giant Altria, announced its plans to sell Washington’s largest wine business to private equity firm Sycamore Partners Management for $1.2 billion. 

Ste. Michelle is the third largest wine company in the U.S. and farms nearly 30,000 acres across the West. 

Altria, which owns Philip Morris and other major tobacco brands, acquired Ste. Michelle in 2008, when it purchased the smokeless tobacco firm UST, which had owned the wine business since 1974.  

New York-based Sycamore Partners specializes in retail and consumer businesses, with a portfolio including Staples; CommerceHub, an e-commerce platform; several clothing companies such as Express, The Limited and Lane Bryant; and a cruise company. 

“The Ste. Michelle leadership team and I look forward to working with the team at Sycamore Partners and believe we are well-positioned to help drive the next phase of growth. Their commitment to partnering with us is a tremendous vote of confidence in the team and our magnificent estates and brands,” David Dearie, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, said in a statement. 

“Ste. Michelle is committed to leading the growth of the Washington wine category through investment in brand-building and by continuing to craft award-winning, wonderfully drinking wines. We are fortunate to have renowned estates and brands in Oregon, Napa and Sonoma to complement our diverse portfolio in Washington.”

by Kate Prengaman