Seagram has asked for the "best and final bids" today as the race for its drinks business enters its final stages. And as the most compelling auction in the history of the industry draws to an end, there could be one final twist. The Diageo/Pernod Ricard bid remains the front-runner to succeed with an offer understood to be close to $8.2bn. Sources have reported that Diageo and Pernod representatives have been locked in negotiations with Seagram's bankers Morgan, Stanley Dean Witter over the weekend. It has even been suggested that a deal may be reached by today.

However, The Wall Street Journal today reported that Brown-Forman and Bacardi in a final bid to boost their offer for the business, so far thought to come in under $8bn, are in negotiations with Allied Domecq about the future of Captain Morgan.

If the Brown-Forman and Bacardi team could agree to sell Captain Morgan to Allied Domecq soon after a successful bid it could give the team the necessary financial clout to muscle past the Diageo offer.

Both suitors are still in active discussions with Seagram and a deal could be reached by as early as today. It is believed that both camps are expected to "sweeten" their initial offers and marked up contracts have already been drawn up, ready to be signed in the event of a deal.

Bidders are understood to have attached conditions that would allow them to lower the offer price should Allied Domecq's claims to Captain Morgan prove successful and the brand be removed from the auction portfolio.

Seagram hotly contests the claim and has offered to pay the legal fees of the winning bidder if it takes on the claim in court. However the loss of the brand could knock up to $2bn off the overall portfolio worth.