New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colo. has been purchased by Kirin Holdings Company Limited.
In an open letter to employees, New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan explained that the move came about in part due to the compromises that would have to be made in regard to the brewery’s values of “environmental sustainability and a rich internal culture” in order to raise money to compete with other craft breweries.
Based in Japan, Kirin Holdings Company Limited was founded in 1885 as The Japan Brewery Co. and began marketing Kirin Beer for the first time in 1888. The company introduced Lion Little World Beverages in 2015 as the “global craft beverages business” of Lion, an Australian company also owned by Kirin that employs close to 4,000 people in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Asia and the U.S. Kirin already owns a minority stake in Brooklyn Brewery as well as San Miguel Brewery in the Philippines.
According to a press release, New Belgium Brewing Co. will remain an independent entity based in Fort Collins, Colo., Steve Fechheimer will continue as ceo and the existing management team will remain in place. In addition, Jordan will “remain deeply involved with the company, and also play a key advisory role in collaborating alongside other leading founders within the Lion Little World Beverages network ensuring the core tenets of craft beverages are aligned with the strategic vision for Lion Little World Beverages in the U.S. and around the world.”
“We’re excited to welcome New Belgium Brewing into our global family of craft beverage brands,” said Matt Tapper, managing director of Lion Little World Beverages, in a press release. “Since meeting the New Belgium team, we’ve been incredibly impressed not just with their commitment to world-class beer and the way they bring their brands to life, but their purpose-led business model and connection to the community – all values we share at Lion.”
Founded in 1991 by According to the Brewers Association, New Belgium ranks as not only the fourth-largest craft brewery in the U.S. by sales volume, but is also the 11th-largest U.S. brewer overall. The brewery In 2018, New Belgium produced lightly fewer than 850,000 barrels of beer last year, which was an 11 percent decline from its 2017 total.
Although no purchase price has been announced, the 100 percent cash deal is expected to close by the end of 2019, pending approvals by regulators as well as New Belgium’s employee stock ownership plan. In addition, more than 300 employees of the brewery will receive retirement payments of $100,000.