Sagamore Spirit, the “grain-to-glass” rye whiskey business founded by Under Armour executive chairman Kevin Plank, has sold a majority stake of the company to an Italian firm best known for producing an amaretto liqueur.

The company, Illva Saronno Holding S.p.A. — the parent company of Disaronno liqueur — also will relocate its North American headquarters from New Jersey to Baltimore Peninsula in Port Covington as it steps into the driver’s seat of the local whiskey brand, according to a Thursday news release. Representatives from Sagamore Ventures declined to specify how large a stake Illva Saronno purchased or the financial terms of the deal.

But a Sagamore spokeswoman, Eve Jalinoos, said the firm will occupy 7,000 square feet of office space at Rye Street Market and take over the Sagamore Spirits Distillery on Cromwell Street. About 50 of the company‘s 115 employees will make the move, she said.

The company, she added, is also committing to using the same whiskey distilling process in place now, which involves Maryland-grown rye and corn, and water from a spring at Plank’s Sagamore Farm in Reisterstown. The spirit is distilled and bottled in South Baltimore.

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The move comes just months after the first commercial and residential tenants began to plant roots at Baltimore Peninsula, the massive, mixed-use waterfront neighborhood in the city’s Port Covington neighborhood. The area, which has undergone a vast transformation over the last three years, also will house a newly constructed Under Armour headquarters.

Funded by a mix of sources that includes the largest tax increment financing package in Baltimore history, the site has been aggressively marketed to potential commercial tenants from a range of industries and backgrounds. A previous iteration of the project billed it as the country’s next major hub for cyber and technology industries, though the proposal fell apart as the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation and upended in-person work.

The current Baltimore Peninsula development team, led by Sagamore Ventures, New York-based MAG Partners and San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners, has sought to brand the space as a mission-focused investment in Baltimore’s future.

“As a beacon of entrepreneurial power and potential, Baltimore Peninsula represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be a foundational partner in creating a brighter future for one of America’s best cities,” Plank said in a Thursday statement. “I want to thank Illva Saronno Holding for their team’s passion in understanding the specialness of our unique product and look forward to the outstanding horsepower they can add into its next chapter.”

J.P. Morgan is serving as an adviser to Sagamore and KPMG is providing financial due diligence services to Illva Saronno Holding, according to the release.

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Existing Baltimore Peninsula tenants include Nick’s Fish House, City Garage and Rye Street Tavern, which will reopen as a branch of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group. CFG Bank and the H. Chambers Co. have signed on as office tenants, and ROOST Baltimore, an extended-stay lodging concept, began accepting guests this summer.

hallie.miller@thebaltimorebanner.com

Hallie Miller is a reporter at The Baltimore Banner, where she hopes to dive deep into the city's communities and highlight solutions. She is passionate about engaging readers and using new tools to tell stories. Hallie spent four years at The Baltimore Sun, where she helped lead the organization's medical coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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