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The British drinks company, Diageo owned and produced the popular brand of vodka liquor, Smirnoff. It began with a vodka distillery founded in Moscow by Piotr Arsenieyevich Smirnov. The vodka now is distributed in 130 countries and includes flavored vodka and malt beverages. In March 2006 Diageo North America claimed Smirnoff vodka to be the best selling distilled spirit brand in the world.
Piotr Smirnov first founded his vodka distillery in Moscow in the 1860s, under the trading name of PA Smirnoff. He died in 1910 and was succeeded by Vladimir Smirnov. The company flourished and produced more than 4 million cases of vodka per year.
In the 1930s Vladimir met Rudolph Kunett, a Russian who had emigrated to America in 1920. The Kunett family had been a supplier of spirits to Smirnoff in Moscow before the Revolution. In 1933 Vladimir sold Kunett the right to begin producing Smirnoff vodka in North America. However, the business in America was not as successful as Kunett had hoped. In 1938 Kunett couldn’t afford to pay for the necessary sales licenses, and contacted John Martin, president of Heublein, who agreed to buy the rights to Smirnoff.