No, Founders Did Not Sell Out

Founders_Logo_color (800x590)Well, as many of you have heard by now, Founders Brewing has sold a 30% stake in their company to a Spanish brewery, Mahou San Miguel Group. Mahou San Miguel, a result of an acquisition of San Miguel by Mahou has been around since 1890. They have deep roots in Spain and according to their website they produce 70% of the Spanish beer consumed worldwide. Before jumping to conclusions, Craft Beer Nation decided to reach out to Founders for comments on the matter.

First, from their press release, “Our number one priority remains successfully completing our facility expansion and continuing our domestic growth in existing and new markets.  We know a lot of states out there still don’t have the opportunity to buy our beer and we want to make that change.  That will get a lot easier once the first phase of our expansion is complete next summer.  A couple years ago we decided to enter a few international markets on a limited basis to test the waters.  We quickly learned that global interest in Founders is strong but given our capacity constraints we have not been able to meaningfully pursue those opportunities.  All these problems will disappear when our expansion is complete and we will no longer have to choose one state or one country over the other.  We greatly look forward to rewarding all of our fans for their patience through our growing pains.”

As we know, Founders is in the process of expanding their current facility as was discussed on Episode 024 of our Pints and Quarts show. By the looks of things, this move looks to be along the lines brewery expansion funding  as well as allowing Founders to tap into international markets. As stated above, Founders has already tested international waters with success and this minority stake, emphasis on minority, allows them to have a foothold in markets that Mahou San Miguel currently sells in.

To paraphrase from our conversation with Founders CEO, Mike Stevens on Wednesday, “This was really just a small investment. 30% gets us access to distribution improvements, but no one is in a position to ask us to change recipes. Mahou was clear that they DID NOT want to things to change, they just want to invest and help us grow.” 

When asked if Mahou managers will be in the brewery Mike explains, “Just the opposite. Mahou wanted employment contracts to make sure the people that have made Founders great are here to stay. Mahou has almost no distribution in the US. Their only presence is a small bit of importing into the Miami area. This deal is all about building a structure to be able to grow into Mahou markets. Not that that is happening anytime soon, though. We are just forming teams to explore the options.” 

It is very clear that the QUALITY of the liquid they produce is what got them to where they are today. Plans to change that would essentially be crazy and doing so is nowhere even close to being on table.

So look, we get it, the craft beer community is a close one that takes craft beer seriously. When we feel that “one of our own” may have crossed over to the dark side, we tend to take that personally. Rest assured that this is not the case. This was a business move that will enable Founders to not only expand into additional US markets, but also take the beauty and joy of American craft beer to the world. Founders has faced hard times before. They once stood on the precipice of shutting its doors in the early days, but they persevered via good business acumen and making an excellent product to position themselves to being one of the leading craft breweries in America. Losing that is likely something that they have zero interest in.

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4 Comments on “No, Founders Did Not Sell Out
    • Thanks Tom! Thought we’d find out some truth since we know how sensitive us craft beer folks can be when we feel like one of our own may be selling out.

  1. Why can’t craft beer stick to its guns?
    So, it’s ok for an American Craft to be 30% owned by a foreign company?
    Or is it because its Founders? Sorry for all the questions, but I’ll keep drinking Founder’s, Goose Island, Blue Point and 10 Barrel Brewing if I every get the chance. Maybe I like “crafty” beer, and I get that. But not sure if it’s fair. Just a thought.

    • JC, I think one of the min differences here is the intention behind the sale and the structure of the sale. For example, when Goose sold to AB they allowed AB to begin brewing skm o their beer with the exception of their barrel program. In this sale, Mahon will not be brewing ANY of Founders beers and they have no decision making authority. Not to mention the fundamental diffence between Mahou and AB bing that the former is a family owned company that has been around for 125 years. Founders had been thinking of ta king their product international and this gives them a foothold. While 30% is seemingly a significant share, it is far from a majority stake.

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