For the last few months, the craft cocktail world entertained itself with a guessing game about the future of Tales of the Cocktail. Now, it appears that answers are near. Multiple sources told Neat Pour that TOTC parent company Mojo911 is entertaining hard offers from three different suitors.
The most prominent group with a bid on the table is liquor.com, the large national drinks website (and NP
competitor peer) according to sources. That offer is said to be two weeks old. At press time, email and phone requests for comment from liquor.com had not been answered.
Also vying for ownership of the drinks festival are two, local New Orleans based investor groups confirmed several insiders. Although neither group is a direct player in the spirits industry, both have extensive production experience and deep links to experts in the cocktail world.
All three groups are reported to be committed to keeping the event in NOLA.
A few issues seem to be slowing down the process. The most obvious is a previously scheduled vacation by Mojo911 owners Ann and Paul Tuennerman. A more complex hurdle is the valuation of the company which is muddled by issues such as intangible assets (ie the Tales name) and an autonomous non-profit with overlapping interests in the fest. However, the deal is clearly under time constraints as sponsors and events must be lined up for the 2018 incarnation.
The Tales organization declined to comment citing ongoing negotiations which is typical in closing situations.
The Tales drama began with outcry over the behavior of the husband and wife owners of the Tales organization earlier this year. The Tuennermans wore black face as part of a Mardi Gras parade tradition, and Paul made racially insensitive remarks on social media just a few months before their annual summer cocktail festival. The fallout was swift, with Paul Tuennerman resigning, and Ann Tuennerman doing damage control to resuscitate Tales of the Cocktail‘s reputation and relationships with large corporate sponsors.
After the controversy, many minority members of the bar community reached out to Tales in an attempt to create some positive impact from the founders’ mistakes. Memorably, Tuennerman discussed diversity issues with bar consultant Ashtin Berry during a Facebook Live session garnered over 10k views. Ideas and programs were proposed to do more to educate and communicate to the bar community ways it can be more inclusive of minority voices and needs, resulting in the creation of the Diversity Council. However, after Ann announced Paul’s return to Tales, Council Co-chair Colin Asare-appiah resigned in protest and other Council members told Neat Pour that they intended to follow suit. 24 hours after NP reported the controversy, both Tuennerman announced their resignation from the organization. Shortly after, the couple announced their intention to sell the company.