BrewDog hires Leighton to mentor CEO Watt

Allan Leighton

Aberdeenshire-based craft brewing giant BrewDog has hired former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton as non-executive chairman to mentor CEO James Watt as the beer firm prepares to float on the stock exchange and attempts to repair its reputation following allegations by a group of former employees that it operates in a “culture of fear.”

Ellon-based BrewDog is currently planning an initial public offering (IPO) in London or New York and has appointed Rothschild as an adviser.

BrewDog was valued at almost £2 billion in its latest crowdfunding round.

Leighton is also chair of The Co-Operative Group and PizzaExpress.

Leighton will replace Blythe Jack, managing director of private equity company TSG Consumer Partners, who was made interim chair earlier this year.

TSG bought a 22% stake in BrewDog in 2017.

Leighton said: “BrewDog has built an incredible market position and brand in a short space of time.

“It continues to grow quickly all over the world, has a fantastic team of people, and an outstanding sustainability story to tell.

“I look forward to playing my role in ensuring the company has the right governance in place to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.”

In an interview with the BBC, Watt said: “It’s going to be fantastic for me personally to have such an experienced business leader acting as a mentor to myself.

“Before this, I was working on a North Atlantic fishing boat.

“This is my first CEO role.”

He explained that an interim chairwoman Blythe Jack had not been able to continue in that role as she represents the private equity company that is BrewDog’s biggest investor, and that would break stock exchange rules.

She will take on the role of deputy chair.

On the reputational damage done to the company, Watt said: “We definitely took a hit.

“The coverage of the letter from former staff in the media was widespread.

“Pretty much everyone saw it, and it didn’t make pleasant or positive reading.

“It damaged our reputation to a certain extent.

“All we can do is respond to it the best way we possibly can – which is by working with our team, doing an independent review, making changes in our company, and being open and transparent …

“We’ve got a great open dialogue with our consumers, customers and our community, to be upfront about what we’re doing.
“We can build from that.
“We can build an even better company.
“For us, it’s about finding an opportunity in a challenging time.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.