‘Hiccup!’ Spirits low after vodka brand auction runs dry

Two vodka bottles are displayed prior to a public auction of the Benelux rights to Stolichnaya and 17 other vodka brands owned by the Russian state, part of efforts to make Moscow pay for seizing the assets of oil company Yukos, in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE | Shareholders of dismantled Russian oil company Yukos were low in spirits Tuesday after the top bid in an auction of several iconic vodka brands came up short.

Financial holding company GML, which was the majority shareholder in Yukos before the Kremlin dismantled the energy giant in 2003, was hoping to sell the rights to Russian vodka brands Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya.

Two bidders each placed a $250,000 deposit to take a shot at winning the rights to use the Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya trademarks in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The auction lasted less than two minutes.

GML had reserved the right to reject the winning bid, which it did, deeming the offer too low. CEO Tim Osborne told reporters that regardless of the outcome, he was pleased his company could hold the auction after 17 years of legal wrangling.

“It’s a hiccup,” Osborne said.

Osborne said this wouldn’t be the last round for GML. He told The Associated Press that the company plans to put the vodka brands up for sale in the future. “We will try again,” he said.

The shareholders are currently pursuing enforcement proceedings against Russian assets in 169 other countries.

The vodka brands were owned by Russian state-owned company Soyuzplodoimport before a Dutch court turned them over in 2020.

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