Weather Updates

Yusef Jackson to sell Bud distributorship to Tennessee family

Yusef Jacks| Ramzi Dreessen~Sun-Times

Yusef Jackson | Ramzi Dreessen~Sun-Times

storyidforme: 57150810
tmspicid: 19759325
fileheaderid: 9035403

Updated: December 2, 2013 12:43PM

Chicago businessman Yusef Jackson, a son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, is selling the Budweiser beer distributorship he bought 16 years after his father led a national boycott of the country’s largest brewery over its lack of minority-owned distributors.

Jackson told the Chicago Sun-Times that River North Sales & Service has reached an agreement with the Hand Family Companies and BDT Capital Partners to sell its assets and combine with City Beverage Illinois to create the “largest beer distributor in the Chicagoland area, selling over 23.5 million case equivalents.”

Representatives of the Hand Family, who are white, could not be reached Thursday for comment.

“I am proud to have led the River North Sales and Service team for nearly 15 years,” Jackson said in a written statement, “evolving River North into a forceful and competitive organization built around a strong and dynamic team of people, world-class beer brands and an innovative and creative approach to the business. By fostering this business, we have been able to grow and flourish in Chicago, an extremely sophisticated and competitive beer market.”

Benj Steinman, who runs a beer industry trade publication, said the move should not affect Joe Six Pack. “I don’t think it will affect the average beer drinker much, it could affect the competitive dynamics in Chicago. Potentially (beer drinkers) may get more of some brands and less of others, but it’s all yet to be determined . . . it’s going to take some time to unfold.”

Steinman said Jackson had made several moves to strengthen his business in the emergence of the craft beer market, such as becoming the city’s largest distributor of Goose Island beer. “He also has a lot of other strong brands,” said Steinman.

Anheuser-Busch and BDT representatives couldn’t be reached for comment about the sale Thursday.

Jackson, then 28, bought the Budweiser distributorship with an older brother, Jonathan Jackson, in 1998. Sixteen years earlier, their father led a national boycott because only three of its 900 distributorships were owned by minorities. Later, the Jackson brothers refused to answer questions themselves about the number of minority workers they employed.

Jonathan Jackson no longer has a stake in the business. Yusef Jackson, meanwhile, recently bought a building at 401 N. Ogden for $2 million. He told the city the new home for his beer business would include offices, a marketing center, a bar, a test kitchen and “a small home-brewing facility enabling the creation of in-house craft beer for training purposes.”

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said Yusef Jackson earned the respect of business people in the ward as his own man — not as Jesse Jackson’s son.

“He tried not to use his family name to do business, so to speak,” Burnett said. “He tried to carry like a regular businessman in the area. And I respected that.”

Burnett also called the sale a loss “as far as a role model for African-American business people.”

Joe Thompson, who runs a beer brokerage firm based in South Carolina, is a good friend of the Hand Family, who own distributorships across Tennessee. He said they have been in the beer business “just about all their lives.”

“You can dig as much you like,” Thompson said. “I don’t think you’ll find anything (bad). They are good people. They know the fundamentals. They have been successful everywhere else. I have no reason to think they won’t be successful in Chicago.”

Contributing: Mitch Dudek

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.