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A Journey to Open a New Market in 1994 (A True Story)

Ted McDonnell was a top-notch salesperson in the Asia-Pacific/Global Duty-Free division of Seagram Spirits and Wine Group. (SSWG or ‘swig’ as it was referred to.) Ted had spent his career living in Australia, Hong Kong, and Guam as a regional director fixing problems and building brands all over Asia-Pacific.

Then one day an outstanding opportunity came his way in the form of a job with Chivas Brothers. He no sooner got settled in London when he was told that among his first assignments was to go to Vietnam to do sales training on behalf of the brand. President Clinton opened the market to trade and management was anxious to expand opportunities in the emerging market.


His excitement was palpable and, as he waited for his visa, he gathered point of sale and training materials. As he scurried about making preparations—including attending a companywide meeting—he was not able to get his ticket and visa until the last minute.  He ended up collecting five boxes of gifts and items that the sales and marketing people could use. You can imagine the effort he put in to get the right stuff and when the week’s wait was over, he ran to his office and collected the visa and plane tickets.

While hoping to stay awake on the flight to see the approach to the country, he instead fell asleep and awoke as the plane landed in a dark and ominous looking airport surrounded by what appeared to be machine gun towers. As he disembarked he felt a bit of relief, when a Vietnamese man tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Are you an American?”

He quickly said, “Oh no I’m British, I’m here with Chivas Regal Whisky.” The man smiled and said, “Would you please tell your American friends we wish they would come back, we’ve missed them.”

With this surprising start to his journey, he collected the five boxes, breezed through customs, and left the terminal to find his colleagues who were to meet him.

Hello Vietnam

Two problems got his immediate attention. Here he is at the airport of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and it’s basically an open-air cement building—hardly what he expected from the biggest city in the country. Second, there were well over 200 people waiting to greet deplaning passengers but no one was there for him. He waited and worried.

“You need taxi? My name is Tran,” said the young man who approached him. “No, I’m waiting for my friends to pick me up,” was Ted’s reply.

A few hours passed while he stopped people to ask if they knew where the Seagram office was in the city. After a while, Ted noticed Tran hanging around the terminal again. He decided to approach him.

“Tran, bring your car, I think we will go to the city. My friends forgot about me.” So, Tran is very happy, and goes to get his car. As Ted describes it, “The car is a little more than a shoe box and I had a hard time squeezing in with the five boxes, my computer bag and the one piece of luggage I had with me.” But off they went.

Tran is very quiet as they drive along a very dark road without much lights. As they are crossing a bridge, Tran stops the car and says, “I go back and get my friend. I go back and get my friend.” Ted nervously replies, “no, no, no… I’m paying you to take me to the city.” To which Tran says, “Yeah, I know I take you to the city… but first I go back and get my friend.”

The next thing Ted knows, Tran turns the car around and heads back to the airport. Only this time the road is deserted and no cars are on the highway.

Ted starts to get very nervous

“How come there are no other cars… how come I’m the only one on the highway and there is the airport… it’s getting dark…only the lights are on out front of the airport with three men standing there and I’m thinking this is it for me. I’m getting kidnapped, you’re never going to see me again and there’s going to be a letter to my family of some sort… I’m thinking I’ve got to get out of the taxi when we reach the airport. But before I can get my hand on the door this guy jumps in the front seat and smiles and says, ‘Hello Joe. How are you Joe?’ I said, ‘Uh, uh, good’ and we’re driving back toward the bridge.”

Picture this—Ted is stuck in the back street, wedged in among the 5 boxes, computer bag and luggage while Tran and his friend are getting angry and arguing with each other. The friend suddenly reaches into the glove box, turns around and points two things at Ted, one in each hand. He can barely see what it is but is sure it looks like a gun. Ted thinks, “Why the hell did I put myself in this fix?”

After a second or two, Tran’s friend says, “Richard Marx or Air Supply cassette player?” Ted starts laughing and so does Tran and his friend. He puts on Richard Marx and he says, “You sing, you sing for us.” Ted’s thinking, “I don’t sing, but if I don’t I may end up in a ditch so sing your friggin’ heart out.”

Now they’re tooling down the muddy roads and all singing Richard Marx and Air Supply in a bizarre (yet frightening for Ted) karaoke event. After a while, they slow down next to a house, the friend gets out and tells Ted to do the same. Ted protests; Tran’s friend is most insistent and mutters something about needing gas to get to the city.

Ted reluctantly leaves the car and is standing on the side of a dark road with all his gear, dressed in a blazer, gray slacks and white shirt. His fear has just gone up a notch or two.

Ted recollects: “But there, next to the little house were three little kids and an old lady that comes out the front door. She takes my hand and leads me inside, sits me down on a small stool. Now that could only be a small stool because if I stood up I think my head would have gone through the roof.” It turns out to be Tran’s family.

What follows is Vietnamese hospitality as Ted is served tea and some food as he begins to relax a bit. He even starts playing with the children and making duck and animal sounds while he waits for Tran to return. All the while he’s thinking that this is the craziest kidnapping ever.

At long last Tran appears and announces, “Okay we go now.” Ted is relieved and delighted and can’t wait to get to Ho Chi Minh City, a shower, and a comfortable Marriott bed. Goodbyes, smiles and happiness is shared all around. In fact, Ted is so happy, he lightens his load by opening one of the boxes and handing out Chivas Regal shirts.

Welcome to the city

“It’s the city, we’re coming to the city,” Tran joyfully announces.

So again, Ted is getting a little nervous being an American in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. He says, “Tran, ahh what street are we going to?” Tran answers, “I don’t know. I ask the policeman.” Before Ted can object, Tran is out of the car with my paper written in English. The officer looks at Ted and asks, “You Yankee?” he says.

Ted decides that it might be best to claim he’s British and puts on his bad English accent. To which the officer replies, “Ahh too bad … I love baseball, I love the Yankees.” He goes on to inform Ted and Tran that the street they need is too small for the car and they need to take two nearby tricycles. The officer offers to watch the taxi while they head off.

So, they get into the tricycles, with the boxes and other gear, ride down narrow roads, just barely missing other bikes and Ted is thinking what the hell is going on. There are bright neon signs but all are in Vietnamese. Finally, they pull over to a really dark and dingy building and over the doorway it says Marriott Hotel.

Ted is elated but still a bit worried. He goes inside, finds the desk clerk, who fortunately speaks English and asks about Seagram, the colleagues he’s supposed to meet, and Chivas Regal. The man replies no—he has no idea who these people or companies are. Ted says, “I’m looking for the Marriott, maybe it’s a little bigger than this.” To which the desk clerk replies, “Ooh you want the other Marriott.” He writes down the address for Tran in Vietnamese. They collect his stuff and put it in the tricycles, go back through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and find their taxi and the policeman. Once again Ted opens a box and hands out more t-shirts to the smiling policeman.

Off they go to the address and twenty minutes later they arrive at a decent looking hotel but certainly not a Marriott. It doesn’t take long for him to learn that it’s the wrong place and they need the Marriott by the water. He is assured that it’s close by. Off they go.

As Ted describes it:

“I was happy when he said, ‘Not far from here.’ Okay. We’re so close I can almost taste the Marriott air. It was hot, it was steaming. I was so tired, it was like 24 hours since I last slept. It had to be about 11 o’clock by then. So here I am, we’re back in the car we’re driving to the next place. Nearly half an hour passes—not five minutes—and we finally pull up to another hotel but something didn’t feel right.”

Ted goes in and asks about Seagram, his colleagues, and Chivas and receives no, no, and no in reply. By now he’s questioning his sanity, his belief in God, and thinks that he’s still sleeping on the plane and this is a dream, or worse, a nightmare. And, things get interesting.

He asks the clerk for a phone so he can call one of his colleagues. He gives the man and Tran the number and they look at each other quizzically. They speak animatedly in Vietnamese. Finally, Tran turns to Ted and says, “Your friend is not here.” To which Ted replies, “I know you already told me he’s not here.”

Tran explains further, “No, your friend is in Ho Chi Minh City… in the south.” “Well where am I”, asks Ted.

“You’re in the North, you’re in Hanoi,” he learns from Tran.

Ted, takes out his plane ticket and looks at it. Sure enough, the ticket and documents he grabbed at the last minute say Hanoi, but the phone number is for Ho Chi Minh City, 700 miles away.

Ted asks, “Tran why didn’t you tell me that when you had the paper?”

Tran replies, “I don’t read English.”

“So why did you have the paper, Tran?”

“Because you gave it to me.”

Ted sits down in the lobby, is about to cry but decides he might just as well laugh. Then realizes what he has to do next.


Join us next time for the continuing saga of Ted McDonnell, Chivas Regal and the trip south to Ho Chi Minh City, aka, Saigon.

By the way, Ted is the CEO of Liberty Lighthouse Group an international alcohol sales and marketing agency. Their mission is to help develop new brands or to further support established brands throughout Asia/Pacific and other Global markets.


Ted McDonnell in full Chivas Regal attireSource:


Dear McCormick Friends, (Please read below)

Good news:  Broker Premium Gin announced, today, it will now become part of the McCormick’s Distillery portfolio.

Martin and Andy Dawson will stay on for a couple years in the role as Brand Ambassadors for McCormick’s ownership of Brokers Gin.

I had the fortune to have worked with Brokers Gin for a number of years with Andy and Martin Dawson.
The Brokers Gin Brand and a good number of its current Asia Pacific distributors will bring us back full circle; I feel very lucky to be back with Brokers Gin and what I’ve call the “Best Crafted Gin” internationally.  To be far, I have not considered another Gin since leaving Brokers Gin as it was a standard that was near if not impossible to match.

In the near future, I will be in touch with each of you in the coming weeks regarding; its price list, the marketing support and where you can source Brokers Gin from either USA or Europe.

More details to follow…

Ted McDonnell

The Wayzata Logistic Company takes a special pride in this

   FDFA/AFHT award as Patron Spirits first & exclusive

                 Asia/Pacific logistic & supply chain.

 In three years, the Patron Tequila Brand has gone from being a USA-centric to becoming a global player. The Patron Spirits Company set up its first international division in the Asia/Pacific region, 2005. Under the direction of Ted McDonnell, CEO, of the Liberty Lighthouse Group and Wayzata Company became a model for supplying global markets.

The Wayzata Company, is currently known as Oceanus AP and was proud to be the Patron Spirits Company key source for supplying all Asia Pacific Regional, Duty Free & Domestic markets, since its international inception. (2005 – 2011 Nov.)

This Award is voted by all the buyers in DF regardless of category chose Patron Spirits as the Best Supplier. Patron Spirits was up against heavy weights of the industry and all other duty free sectors.’ This is going to give us the opportunity to fill the gaps in the travel retail industry.’’ (JM)

 In 2009 the Wayzata Company became OCEANUS AP.

Ted McDonnell, Jr. – CEO

Liberty Lighthouse Group and Oceanus AP Company


In 2012 Liberty Lighthouse Group will open a specialty Mexican Spirits Agency.

Over the past several years, Liberty Lighthouse Group introduced the 100% Blue Agave Tequila’s into the Asia Pacific region. Since 2005 to 2011 we managed the launch and supported Patron Spirits growth region wide. Most recently, in 2010 we launched Casa Noble 100% Blue Agave Tequila’s. Casa Noble best knows for its ultra premium quality and Carlos Santana partnership in 2011.

With each of these 100% Blue Agave Tequila brands we received wide acceptance in the Asia Pacific region.

Tequila total focus is to support the very Best of the Best from Mexican independent distillers of Beer, Mixto Tequila’s, 100% Blue Agave Tequila’s, Mescals and others spirits.

Mexican Brands covering the 5 States, Lowland Agave Growth, Highland Agave Growth, Organic Tequila’s, French Oak Barrels, Bourbon Barrels, Double – Triple Distilled, 100% Blue Agave Tequila’s, 100% Mescals, Mixto’s, Liqueurs, Mexico Beers, and other Extra’s.

It is no surprise, TEQUILA TOTAL first selection to partner with is recognized as 2011 HOTTEST BRAND 100% Blue Agave TEQUILA in the category. KAH’s Range of 100% BLUE AGAVE TEQUILA’S.

Agave 99 100% Blue Agave Tequila; elegant bottle package, highly rated and noted for its smooth taste, Organic, French Oak Barrel and is 99 proof.

A wide range of excellent Mexican Beers; Mexicali, Rio Grande Ale, Pilsner and Dark Beer. Diablo Chili Beer – I dare you to drink ONE BOTTLE!!!!!!!

Please read on…

Drinks Americas KAH® Tequila Named “Best of the Best” by

WILTON, CT, (DATE) – Drinks Americas Holdings, Ltd., (“Drinks”) (OTCBB: DKAMD), a leading developer and marketer of beverage products, announced today that KAH® Tequila was recently honored with’s prestigious “Best of the Best” award. Taking “Best of the Best” honors in the High-Proof Tequila category was KAH® Tequila 110 Proof Reposado.

The Awards are a unique competition. At an exclusive, private tasting, aficionados and industry professionals donate their personal time to blind taste products in several categories. No entry fees are solicited or collected. The judges spend a full week, taking the time necessary to evaluate each product correctly. Contenders are pushed through multiple rounds until the top products are revealed. Only the “Best of the Best” are awarded in each category, producing results consumers can trust that are unbiased and carefully considered.

The 2011 Awards were announced in November. Over 100 brands submitted 277 products to this competition making it the largest Agave spirits tasting ever in the United States.

KAH® Tequila previously received multiple awards for taste in all styles at the Spirits International Prestige Competition, with KAH® Extra Anejo receiving the Platinum Award for Best in Class. The KAH® Tequila Series received the Platinum Award for Best in Class for Package Design. In addition to those awards, The Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition judged KAH® Tequila as Best in Category and awarded the Gold Medal to KAH® Anejo, the Gold Medal to KAH® Blanco and the Bronze Medal to KAH® Reposado 110 Proof.

Drinks Americas develops, owns, markets, and nationally distributes alcoholic premium beverages. In June 2011, the Company entered into a sales, distribution and licensing agreement with Worldwide Beverage Imports, LLC and is now selling and distributing KAH® Tequila, Agave 99® Tequila, Rio Bravo Beer, Crazy Pig Ale and Chili Devil Beer. The Company also markets Willie Nelson’s Old Whiskey River Bourbon, Olifant Vodka, receives a royalty for Kid Rock’s American Badass Beer and Damiana Mexican Liqueur, and owns and distributes Rheingold Beer.

For further information, please visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook/KahTequila and on our new websites at and

Contact: Ted McDonnell at Liberty Lighthouse Group / Tequila Total website.

KAH Tequila ~ Agave 99 Tequila
Rheingold Beer ~ Rio Bravo Beer ~ Crazy Pig Ale ~ Chili Devil Beer

Liberty Lighthouse Group Second Decade!

A new Decade has brought a new starts for Liberty Lighthouse Group.

Most of you know me from the Liberty Lighthouse Group company. Liberty Lighthouse Group was established on March 17, 2000. As we enter our second decade of doing business we are not celebrating but preparing ourselves for what we believe will be a far better decade for the ASIA PACIFIC REGION and our Brand Companies. In preparing ourselves, I decided to take on a partner Noni MANGUBAT, revamp our web site and the re-introduction of Oceanus AP web site and business.

Noni Mangubat – Partner: we’ve worked together for 12 years in the Philippines with Premier Wines and Spirits Distribution Company. My trust in Noni came in the early days with his hard work ethic, friendly approach to doing business and his ease in making people understand and want to work with him. Noni managed his career on a successful path in his many roles; financial roles for companies, CPA, General Manager of Duty Free for Premier, while always setting specific objectives that were resulted oriented.  Now, we did not have a winning year every year, in the Philippines, but I noticed that even in hard times his colleagues and clients always turned to him for guidance. I credit Noni in guiding and setting up OCEANUS AP.  Noni’s role will develop over time to where you count on him as much as I do. Noni is keen to know each of you and will do so by offering immediate help on Issues, Conduct Trainings, and Market visits to offer his Support and Advice from our brand Companies to You.

Brand Company’s : We want to thank all the Brand Companies that started with us since 2000 and that are still with us today; THANK YOU!

10 Years Working Together

Compass Box Whisky; the finest range of Scotch whisky – bar none.  Yes, it happens to be my personal Scotch range of Malt and Blended Whiskies that Global Whisky Critics all APPLAUD!

Compass Box Whisky, is hand crafted that is guarded with care. Resulting in winning every major award available and noted as the WHISKY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR for past several years by the WHISKY MAGAZINE.

Brokers Gin; the finest premium Gin in the category….ok, I might be a bit prejudice but I am backed up by ULTIMATE SPRITIS CHALLENGER, IWSC, Chicago Beverage Institute, GIN MASTERS, and the CHAIRMAN’S TROPHY this year….

McCormick’s Distillery; America’s oldest operating distillery since 1856. McCormick’s Distillery is known as America’s ”FRIENDLY PRICED SPIRITS”, where our Motto is Premium does not have to mean Expensive.

Thanks to La Fee for trusting us with their forbidden spirit over the past 3 years.

La Fee is not the easiest brand too to explain, in the beginning, but with its excellent reputation as being the best in the category. La Fee Absinthe is now the leading selling Absinthe in the Asia Pacific region! La Fee Absinthe is truly unique brand that will become big as markets relax their drinking laws for Absinthe. LA FEE was the first real Absinthe to launch in America in 2009 to thunderous support from the trade and eager consumers!

Janneau Armagnac; the highest rated, most awarded and largest selling Armagnac in the world. No more need to be said!

Our New Partners for 2010

Casa Noble 100% Blue Agave Tequila is always rated in the top 5 brands in each category for its taste, quality and overall the best example of a Premium quality TEQUILA. CASA NOBLE was voted the TEQUILA OF THE DECADE by the Master Blenders of Tequila. And recently was the drink of choices by President Obama and Pres. Calderon (Mexico) at the White House.

Van Gogh Vodka Is known as the very best Premium Flavored Vodka in the World.

As well as the Purest of Pure Vodka’s in the Category.

With the highest rated flavored vodka company bare NONE! Van Gogh Vodka’s infused flavored vodka’s are truly hand crafted in the Dutch Style of making the best of the best!

* For both companies it’s their first serious entrance into the Asia/Pacific region and already they are being embraced by you, distributors.

WEBSITE UPDATES; Liberty Lighthouse Group and Oceanus AP web site:

We have revamped your web sites with New Images, Stories, Newspaper Links, You Tube Video’s, additional Categories, added a Great Library for Distributors/Brand Companies under Links,  a Consultancy section and overall clean out the old for the new.

PLUS; added a NEW LANGUAGE BAR to the site; just click the Google Translator Bar and select your language of choice.


Chinese Mandarin

Chinese Cantonese








Middle East












Lastly; Thank you, to our distributors for your trust and business over the years.


Edward F. McDonnell Jr.

Liberty Lighthouse Group & Oceanus AP
3561 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA, 94920
Tel: +1-415-435-2056 Fax: +1-415-435-3028
Skype: ted.mcdonnell.1

The Liberty Lighthouse Group (LLG) is an alcoholic beverage sales and marketing Agency. LLG’s key objective is to support its Brand Companies to either establish new brands or to further support established brands throughout Asia/Pacific distribution channels.

LLG focuses 100% of its energy in developing spirit brands from the Americas and European Union, with the best Asia/Pacific distributors.

The Spirits brands that LLG represent will offer its regional distributors, retailers and consumers a new perspective (an edge) when selling, promoting, and most importantly drinking their new favorite alcoholic beverage.

In return, LLG fully expect its regional distributors to be brand builders, to be positive, to be constructive, when developing plans for promotions, addressing sales and resolving any issues in utter professionalism.

LLG focuses its Sales & Marketing efforts on a market by market basis. In other words: “the Right Brands with the Right Distributors in the Right Market.” EFM.

Cutting Edge Brands

  • Shake up the Category
  • Offer a unique drinking proposition to its consumers.
  • Offer unique and stylish packaging.
  • Premium quality, new variance, new style, new brands in the Spirits category.
  • Specifically targets ‘A-B’ segment of the Asia/Pacific Populations.
  • Once tasted always remembered.
  • Offers Asian consumers ‘Face‘ amongst their peers.

Face‘ : An Asian term: addressing a behavior, a form of respect towards others or identifies one’s style, fashion, knowledge, and what is outwardly projected or the products they associate or share.

Visit for more info

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