BrewDog, the company which prided itself on being rebellious until its reputation went down the sewer earlier this year, has turned to the British business establishment to try to bring back the glory years.
The Aberdeenshire based business has drafted in Allan “man of the people” Leighton as chair and mentor to chief executive James Watt, in an effort steady the creaking ship ahead of a stock market float.
Credited with turning Asda from a near bankrupt business in 1991 into the second largest supermarket in the UK, before its sale to Wal-Mart in 1999, Leighton’s “common touch” is said to be legendary. Since leaving Asda, he has been Royal Mail chairman, and CEO of Pandora; he is currently chair of the Co-op, too.
Leighton’s appointment follows a major backlash against the company after former staff wrote an open letter in which they claimed the firm fostered a “culture of fear” in which they were bullied and “treated like objects” and left “burnt out, afraid and miserable”.
The ex staffers’ letter, published in June, complained claimed a significant number of former staff suffered mental health problems as a result of working there.
At the time, Watt apologised and started a series of reforms to address the criticism.
Watt recently claimed investor interest slowed after allegation but BrewDog has just closed a world record equity crowdfunding round in which it raised £30.2m from 78,000 of what it called “equity punks”.
The funding will be used to lower BrewDog’s climate changing emissions at the Ellon brewery and a battery-operated vehicle fleet.
Commenting on his appointment, 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 BBC Scotland, 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.”
The timing of the float has yet to be announced, although Rothschild has been appointed advisor.
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