Diageo is set to take control of Whyte & Mackay, if the OFT okays the United Spirits deal

Diageo is set to take control of Whyte & Mackay, if the OFT okays the United Spirits deal

What is one to make of this week's news that Scotch whisky producer Whyte & Mackay (W&M) has installed former Diageo man Bryan Donaghey as its new chief executive?

The Glasgow-based company is expected to come under the control of the drinks giant, if the UK's Office of Fair Trading gives the green light to Diageo's deal to take control of W&M's parent company, United Spirits.

But, does the Donaghey development offer a clue over the fate of W&M?

On the face of it, Donaghey's exit from Diageo may not have been on the best of terms: The company said on Tuesday that he had “severed” his employment with the group, adding only that it would not comment further. Earlier this year, Donaghey, who spent nine years with the company, was shifted from his role as MD of Diageo's production business in Scotland to “supply strategy director”.

It doesn't really have quite the same ring to it, does it? 

Diageo, which has declined to comment on Donaghey joining W&M, has said that the whisky firm will retain its “independence” and management kept seperate, at least until the OFT review is complete. W&M's last CEO, John Beard, left with no explanation given, which only adds to the tangled web. 

W&M has also been quiet since news of the Diageo, United Spirits deal broke: The company's official Twitter feed has been silent since July

But, what if the competition authorities wave through the deal, and Donaghey finds himself reporting, ultimately, to the company with whom which he has just “severed” ties? 

Does this suggest that those in the know are gearing up for W&M to be sold-off, as analysts have speculated? That's a lot of speculation to be scotched.