Just a week after Anheuser-Busch acquired the remainder of the Craft Brew Alliance, and only a few months since the high-profile merger between Boston Beer and Dogfish Head, another revered member of the craft brewing world has been sold.
On Tuesday, New Belgium Brewing’s co-founder Kim Jordan confirmed that Kirin-owned Lion Little World Beverages has acquired 100 percent of the company. Prior to the sale, New Belgium was the fourth-largest domestic craft brewery, as defined by the Brewers Association.
The deal, which is expected to close at the end of 2019, will also mark the end of New Belgium’s status as a 100 percent employee-owned craft brewery. The buyout is set to be an all-cash transaction, according to a press release.
New Belgium’s headquarters will remain in Fort Collins, CO, and CEO Steve Fechheimer will remain at the helm, Brewbound reports. Jordan, who will remain in an advisory role after the acquisition, posted a letter on the New Belgium website explaining why the company agreed to the deal.
“We all know the world of craft brewing is dynamic,” she wrote. “In the [U.S.], the number of breweries has nearly doubled in the last four years to 7,500. At New Belgium, we’ve needed to balance the cash demands of our ESOP and selling shareholders, with the operational need for more capacity (hence the brewery in Asheville) and the need to grow our brand by reaching more beer drinkers with our brand message. These are a lot of competing priorities and it has been difficult to do all of them as well as we’d like. As we surveyed the landscape over the last several years, we found that options to raise capital while being an independent brewer weren’t realistic for us.”
Jordan added: “Some of the most widely used options by craft brewers were going to compromise a lot about what makes New Belgium great; environmental sustainability, and a rich internal culture. Some of these were going to lead to cost-cutting or a lack of focus on sustainability. Having the support and resources of Lion Little World Beverages, allows us to attend to those competing priorities and utilize our brewery capacity to its fullest.”
As some small consolation to its employees, Jordan also wrote that “More than 300 employees are receiving over $100,000 of retirement money with some receiving significantly greater amounts.”