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Family business roundup: Morrell family sells while Coopers Brewery expands through acquisition

By Giulia Cambieri

The family behind US oil company Downeast Energy has sold the firm, while Coopers Brewery, the Australian beer maker controlled by the eponymous family, has expanded into the American market with a big acquisition.

Owned by the Morell family, Maine-based Downeast Energy, whose operations span oil to propane and building materials, has been sold to Oklahoma’s NGL Energy Partners, according to a statement by the latter. No financial terms of the transaction were disclosed.

The sale, expected to be completed in May, will end the family’s involvement in the day-to-day management of Downeast, first acquired in 1931 by Allen Morrell. It has since been run by three generations of the family.

In a letter published on the company’s Facebook page, the family said it has “mixed emotions” about selling Downeast. "This is extremely hard," Bill Morrell, family member and the group’s vice-president, told local newspaper The Portland Press Herald, adding that the decision was unanimous.

However, non-family president John Peters said that the family will retain its property development business.

Meanwhile, Adelaide-based Coopers Brewery, which claims to be the world’s largest producer of home brew concentrates, said in a statement it has acquired Mr Beer, the US’s largest home brew brand, in a “multi-million-dollar purchase”.

Family-owned Coopers, which was established in 1862 and is currently headed by fifth-generation cousins Tim and Glenn Cooper, added it expects the new brand to “be profitable immediately”, allowing the company to expand in the US and increase its market share worldwide.

“The potential home brew market [in the US] is huge,” Scott Harris, marketing manager for brewing products at Coopers, said in the statement. “In 2011, Mr Beer sold more than 200,000 home brew starter kits and there are no signs of that demand waning. In the past 10 years demand has been increasing by about 10% a year.”

Mike Bernstein, who founded Arizona-based Mr Beer in 1993, will maintain a minority stake in the firm and will continue to serve as managing director.