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Larry H. Miller Company acquires majority stake of Utah ‘dirty soda’ chain Swig

Utah business giant plans to take Swig national

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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Utah's massive Larry H. Miller Company is taking on the state's dirty soda wars, as it aims to grow the concept into other states.

The Sandy-based business giant announced Tuesday it has acquired a majority stake in Swig from the private equity firm Savory Fund. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, though Savory Fund, Swig founder Nicole Tanner and two other partners, will still retain "significant minority stakes" in the company, according to Larry H. Miller Company.

The Swig brand will also begin operating out of LHM Company-owned Megaplex Theatres beginning in 2023, the company announced. Both businesses will accept refillable Swig tumblers and Megaplex Theatres mugs at the same cost as a normal refill for "a limited time" once Swig moves into the theaters.

"We love Swig's growth trajectory, best-in-class customer service, strong employee culture and commitment to delivering positive guest experiences. We are excited to welcome the Swig team to the LHM Company and are excited to help accelerate its national expansion," said Steve Starks, the CEO of Larry H. Miller Company, in a statement Tuesday.

The purchase is the latest investment for the Larry H. Miller Company since it started shifting its portfolio two years ago, selling its majority share of the Utah Jazz to Qualtrics Ryan Smith in October 2020 for $1.6 billion. It sold its remaining minority shares earlier this year.

The company also sold its large portfolio of car dealerships to Asbury Automotive Group in 2021. While it still owns the Salt Lake Bees in addition to Megaplex Theatres among its entertainment brands, company officials note that they've started to focus more heavily on real estate, health care and finance among its businesses and investments.

As for the newest acquisition, Larry H. Miller Company owner Gail Miller said Tuesday she's "proud" to invest in a business that has an "approach to community building aligns with ours." In addition to retaining a minority share of the company, Tanner will remain the spokeswoman of Swig's "Save The Cups" campaign, which has raised about $550,000 toward awareness and paying off medical bills related to breast cancer since 2020.

"(Tanner) and the team are invested in their leaders and employees, and their values are strongly reflected in their everyday operations," Miller added.

Breast cancer survivor Nicole Tanner, founder of drink company Swig, helps a customer at the West Jordan store on Dec. 16, 2020. Tanner raises money to help other women who need surgery and can’t afford to pay for it themselves.

Breast cancer survivor Nicole Tanner, founder of drink company Swig, helps a customer at the West Jordan store on Dec. 16, 2020. Tanner raises money to help other women who need surgery and can’t afford to pay for it themselves.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Tanner founded Swig in St. George back in 2010 and it has since expanded to dozens of locations across Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas over the course of 12 years. It also made national headlines in 2015 for its lawsuit against rival Sodalicious over the term "dirty soda." The two companies settled the contentious battle in 2017.

Swig also has plans to add 25 new locations in 2023 as it continues to enter the national market, Larry H. Miller Company officials said Tuesday.

The acquisition comes after Savory Fund took majority control of Swig four years ago. Andrew Smith, the co-founder of the firm, said that he is "excited" about the deal and that the company will continue to support Swig as "they bring this market-defining concept across the country."

A spokesperson for the Savory Fund notes that the firm holds $650 million in assets. Its other food investments include The Crack Shack, 86 Repairs, Hash Kitchen, Mo' Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food, Pincho, R&R Barbeque, Saigon Hustle, the Sicilian Butcher and Via 313 Pizzeria.