New York-based Charmer Sunbelt Group and Wirtz Beverage Group, Chicago, two family-run distributors of wine, spirits and beer, announced on Oct. 20 that the companies signed an agreement to substantially combine all of their beverage alcohol operations.

The new company, Breakthru Beverage Group, will be one of the largest and most established wholesale distributors in the United States and Canada, it says. The company initially will have operations in 16 markets, employ more than 7,000 people and represent a portfolio of premier wine, spirits and beer brands with $6 billion in annual sales.

W. Rockwell (Rocky) Wirtzand Charles Merinoffwill lead the new organization as co-chairmen of the Board. Daniel Wirtz, current president of Wirtz Beverage Group, will be Vice-Chairman. Greg Baird, industry veteran and current Charmer Sunbelt president, will serve as president and chief executive officer of the company. Arthur Wirtz,current Wirtz Beverage chief operating officer, will serve as executive vice president of operations and a member of the Board.

Baird will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, and will have organizational oversight and direct management of the senior leadership team. All company personnel will report to Baird, who will report to the Board and operating committee members Merinoff and Daniel Wirtz. The operating committee will oversee the integration of the businesses, manage and direct strategic planning and play a key role in leading supplier relations, the company says. The new organization will be headquartered in New York with a corporate leadership presence in Chicago.

“The significance of these two great companies coming together is a testament to our shared values, approach and commitment to the future,” Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “Charlie and his team have built an incredible company and we have a lot of similarities in our culture and growth strategy. As family-run businesses, maintaining the integrity of our relationships with our employees and partners is really important.”

Merinoff added: “It will be truly amazing to see these two great organizations and our families come together. We fully expect that the best practices and talent from both companies will create a superior partner for our suppliers and customers. Both Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz have a history of passion, innovation and winning in the marketplace. Together, the sky’s the limit.”

Breakthru Beverage will be designed to lead in the evolving total beverage alcohol landscape, bringing together the strongest elements of both companies, it says. Enhanced commercial capabilities and superior market execution will be supported by integrated insights and strong expertise to establish a unified national footprint. Innovative approaches will be the foundation for a new and different kind of company, it adds.

“By working as an efficient and collaborative wholesaler across multiple markets, we can improve speed to market for our partners and better coordinate and activate brand marketing strategies. We can make investments in both our markets and our people,” Baird said. “We will create new models where it makes sense, but most importantly foster an open, high-integrity culture for our associates, suppliers and customers that drive value for all parties each and every day.”

The two companies share many of the same supplier partners and distribute similar brands across a geographically diverse footprint.

The Charmer Sunbelt Group operates local distributor and/or brokerage houses in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and has interests in the Alabama and Mississippi markets. The Wirtz family has interests in Illinois, Wisconsin, Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and throughout Canada.

Alliance Beverage in Arizona will continue to be a joint venture between Breakthru and the Glazer family, and Breakthru will have interests in Alabama and Mississippi with the Glazer and Young families, it notes. The markets of Canada, Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri and New York will not be owned by the company. However, Charmer Sunbelt and the Wirtz family anticipate continuing their respective partnership, management and supportive relationships with these affiliated companies.

“It is clear over our many months of dialogue that both companies have the same long-term vision to really create something that pushes the boundaries of the traditional distributor,” Daniel Wirtz said. “By thinking and acting differently and building upon the very best of our organizations, we can come together and create a company that truly changes how we all do business. There are so many opportunities to use our capabilities and expertise to be a more valuable partner. It’s very exciting.”

The closing, which is subject to customary conditions including shareholder and regulatory approvals, is anticipated in January 2016.