Beer and spirits company BrewDog – hit by criticism from former employees earlier this year – has appointed a chairman with a blue-chip reputation.
Allan Leighton was the former CEO of Asda and Pandora. He is the chairman of the Co-op and previously served as the chairman of Royal Mail.
He joins the Aberdeenshire brewing company to help it prepare for a stock exchange float and to serve as a mentor to its CEO, James Watt.
BrewDog recently completed a world-record equity crowdfunding round.
It received £30.2 million from 78,000 “equity punks.”
The ex-employees’ letter in June complained about a “culture of fear” and a “toxic” environment at BrewDog.
It claimed that a significant number of former employees developed mental health issues as a result of their employment there.
Mr Watt apologised at the time and launched a series of reforms in response to the criticism.
According to the CEO, investor interest slowed following the publicity surrounding the ex-staffers’ letter, but rebounded strongly in the final weeks.
The funding will be used to reduce BrewDog’s carbon footprint through the installation of an anaerobic digester at the Ellon brewery and the purchase of a battery-powered vehicle fleet.
Wiser, a consultancy that advises and researches on corporate culture, has been hired and is expected to produce a report by the end of the year that will be made public.
Following the postponement of planned pay raises, pay has been increased by 3%. About 100 new employees have been hired, partly to relieve pressure on those already employed by the company.
Mr. Leighton said of his appointment, “BrewDog has built an incredible market position and brand in a short period of time.”
“It is rapidly expanding around the world, has a fantastic team of people, and an outstanding sustainability storey to tell.” I am excited to play my part in ensuring that the company has the proper governance in place to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.”
Mr Watt, who co-founded Brewdog 14 years ago, told BBC Scotland: “It’s going to be fantastic for me personally to have such an experienced business leader acting as a mentor to myself.” Prior to this, I was working on a fishing boat in the North Atlantic. This is my first position as CEO.”
He explained that an interim chairwoman, Blythe Jack, could not continue in that role because she represents the private equity firm that is BrewDog’s largest investor, which would violate stock exchange rules. She is appointed as the board’s deputy chairperson.
‘Damaged our reputation’
When asked about the company’s reputational damage in June, Mr Watt said, “We definitely took a hit.” The letter from former employees received extensive media coverage. Almost everyone saw it, and it didn’t make for pleasant or positive reading. It harmed our reputation to some extent. All we can do is respond in the best way possible, which is to work with our team, conduct an independent review, make changes in our company, and be open and transparent.”
“We’ve got a great open dialogue with our consumers, customers, and community to be upfront about what we’re doing,” he added. That is a foundation upon which we can build. We can make our company even better. It’s about finding an opportunity in a difficult time for us.”
The date of the float, also known as an Initial Public Offering, has not been announced. BrewDog has hired Rothschild to advise on it, after postponing plans for a 2020 float due to the pandemic.