The Work

March 10, 2011 6:48 PM

Ropes, Latham Brew Up a Green Mountain-Starbucks Licensing Deal

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

For anyone who thinks the trek to the local Starbucks is too much of a hassle, today's announcement that the company has agreed to a licensing deal with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., may count as a blessing.

The companies have struck a deal that allows Green Mountain to distribute Starbucks Corporation's coffee and teas for use in its Keurig single-serve brewing system. The agreement brings together the world's largest coffee chain and a leader in the single-serve coffee market, with sales of almost $2 billion last year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the terms of the agreement, both companies will sell Starbucks and Tazo tea K-Cup servings at retail locations in the U.S. and Canada. Keurig systems will also be available for sale in Starbucks outlets and on the companies' Web sites by 2012.

Ropes & Gray is advising Green Mountain. The firm said Green Mountain general counsel Howard Malovany and Keurig, Inc., general counsel Mike Degnan served as primary in-house counsel on the deal. Jane Goldstein--who was an Am Law Daily "Dealmaker of the Week" in September for her work on Green Mountain's acquisition of Montreal beanery Van Houtte--served as lead outside counsel.

In 2009, Green Mountain announced expansion plans that included acquiring a series of smaller coffee makers. As a result, Goldstein advised the company on at least four deals over the past two years, including the Van Houtte transaction. Those deals, and the company's expansion, paved the way for today's agreement with Starbucks.

Latham & Watkins advised Starbucks on the deal, with a legal team led by Washington, D.C.-based corporate partner Paul Sheridan and included D.C.-based partners Allen Klein, and Joel Trotter and Orange County corporate partner Charles Ruck. Corporate counsel Kieran Dickinson and antitrust partner Michael Egge also advised. 

Starbucks is coming off of a nasty lawsuit with Kraft Foods Inc., which agreed to a $500-million-a-year distribution deal for the company's products 12 years ago but sued in December when Starbucks tried to end that relationship. Starbucks won that suit in January, and overcame a claim by Kraft in U.S. appeals court last month, which put the company in a position to seek out new distribution partners at the beginning of this month. Latham was among the firms representing Starbucks in the litigation.


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