Charles Mackay and James Whyte started a company as whisky merchants and bonded warehousemen in Glasgow in 1882. W&M Special was their first blended whisky and it was successful in the United Kingdom and other English speaking countries around the world. After World War II they focused on the home market and now sell more than 1 million cases a year.
The brand was purchased by Hugh Fraser’s SUITS group in 1971. SUITS was acquired by Lonrho in 1981 and subsequently Whyte & Mackay was sold to Brent Walker in 1988 and then to American Brands in 1990, which was renamed as Fortune Brands in 1997. In 2001 Fortune Brands sold Whyte & Mackay to management for £208 million. United Breweries purchased the brand in May 2007 for £595 million in cash.
In August 2013, key members of United Spirits Limited (USL), the subsidiary of United Breweries that owned Whyte & Mackay, resigned from positions at Whyte and Mackay in the wake of the purchase of a controlling share of USL by Diageo, including USL CEO Vijay Mallya, White & Mackay CEO John Beard, and director Ayani Nedungadi. Regulators in the UK are investigating whether to force United to divest itself of Whyte & Mackay due to anti-trust concerns over Diageo’s dominant position in Scotch whisky production. On 16 September 2013, Whyte & Mackay appointed Bryan Donaghey as its new CEO. Donaghey formerly served as managing director of Diageo for Scotland and prior to Diageo held posts within the Scotch Whisky Association.