A former owner of Whyte & Mackay has announced plans to buy back the whisky brand if competition authorities force Diageo into a sale.

Vivian Imerman sold the Glasgow-based company in 2007 to Vijay Mallya's United Distillers in a deal reported to be worth about £595 million.

South African-born Mr Imerman was said to have netted around £400m from the transaction.

Now Mr Imerman has indicated he will be among the bidders if the Jura and Dalmore maker comes back on the market.

The Office of Fair Trading - which took an interest after Diageo took a significant stake in Mr Mallya's United Spirits in a £344m deal earlier this year - is ­mulling an offer from Diageo to offload all of Whyte & Mackay except its smaller malt distilleries at Dalmore and Tamnavulin.

Anyone taking on the name would get the eponymous Whyte & Mackay brands, its private label business, central operations and distilleries in Invergordon, Jura and Fettercairn.

Some industry analysts believe the price tag for the company could go as high as £1billion if a bidding war takes place.

While others such as Japanese drinks giant Suntory, US based Brown-Forman, Bacardi and private equity houses have been suggested as potential suitors, Mr Imerman is the first to publicly declare an interest.

He believes adding Scotch whisky to the portfolio of beer and spirit brands in the Vasari Global business he is developing would see sales accelerate in emerging economies in Asia and Africa.

Mr Imerman, once dubbed the "man from Del Monte" after leading a turnaround at the tinned fruit business, was bound by a five-year restriction on working in the drinks industry as part of the terms of the Whyte & Mackay sale.

Since that expired last year his Vasari Global, a holding company for a variety of interests, is again getting involved in the drinks trade.

A statement released yesterday by Vasari said: "If it is decided that Diageo will sell, Mr Imerman has expressed an interest in buying.

"Whyte & Mackay would make an important addition to the portfolio of spirits and beer businesses in Africa and Asia, where Mr Imerman has been concentrating his efforts through his company Vasari since his five-year restraint expired last year.

"The brand would be ­complementary to the strategy of acquiring and growing businesses in these regions to take advantage of rapid consumer growth."

Last year London-based Vasari was involved in taking a stake in Ethiopian business Dashen Brewery, which was established in 1996 and makes spirits and beer, alongside asset manager Duet Group.

At the time of the transaction, reported to be in the region of £60m, was described as the largest private equity deal struck in the ­African country.

John Vincent, previously an ­executive director at Whyte & Mackay, and Jacques Fragis, formerly finance director at the whisky company, are also involved as part of the top team at Vasari.

The probability of Whyte & Mackay being put up for sale has moved forward this week after the OFT said that Diageo's Bell's whisky competes with Whyte & Mackay's own-label and branded whisky.

The watchdog said Diageo owning Whyte & Mackay would mean reduced competition in the supply of blended whisky leading to higher prices for retailers and consumers.

It also judged that rival producers would not have the capacity to offset the resultant reduction in competition in the market.

Diageo, the world's biggest spirits maker, said it would assist the OFT with its evaluation of the United Spirits deal and that a further announcement would be made in due course.

The possible sale of Whyte & Mackay comes at a time when many major whisky companies are stepping up investment in production capacity to meet the demand expected in the future from export markets.

Diageo last year announced plans to spend around £1bn to ramp up capacity while Pernod Ricard, owner of Chivas Regal and Ballantine's, is also building a new distillery in Speyside which it hopes to open some time next year.

Edrington Group announced this week it plans to invest £100m in a new Speyside distillery and visitor centre for The Macallan brand.