Controversial BrewDog CEO James Watt Steps Down

, Controversial BrewDog CEO James Watt Steps Down

(Courtesy BrewDog)

We’ve always liked James Watt, but he’s a polarizing figure to be sure.

Here’s the deal…

BrewDog’s James Watt, who founded the now global craft brewery along with Martin Dickie, is a controversial character with a-larger-than-life attitude that he has brought to the BrewDog beer brand.

, Controversial BrewDog CEO James Watt Steps Down

BrewDog co-Founder James Watt

Although BrewDog began as a Scottish garage brewery in 2007, it has grown into an international drinks maker that in addition to brewing, owns a cidery, a distilling operation, now employs over 2,000 team members and has over 100 bars all over the planet.

And now after 17 years building BrewDog, Watt will step away from his position as CEO and replaced by James Arrow, who has occupied the COO position since September 2023.

The official word from the company on this succession is that it has been in the works since last year. Watt will remain on the BrewDog PLC board and retain his title of “captain and co-founder.’ He also remains a major shareholder in the company he built.

BrewDog chair Allan Leighton explained that  “James Watt spoke to me last year about continuing to play a role with the business while freeing up time to concentrate on his other projects and interests.”

“I am excited to take a bit of time off, to travel, to spend more time with my family and friends, Watt said. “I am also looking forward to being able to dedicate some more time to my other business interests.”

Calling Arrow a “proven leader”, Leighton added that the board was delighted to have him lead BrewDog “into its next phase of growth.”

Yet many beer industry watchers question if the sometimes brash Watt had worn out his welcome after years of generating controversy.

In 2021  ex- BrewDog employees are accused the company of creating a “culture of fear,” built around a “cult of personality” surrounding founders James Watt and Martin Dickie.

, Controversial BrewDog CEO James Watt Steps DownThen came the Willie Wonka themed solid gold can giveaway fiasco which has now cost BrewDog co-founder and CEO a cool £500k (approximately $607,800 US).

Facsimiles of the gold cans were hidden in cases of BrewDog’s Punk IPA and if you found one of those the brewery would gift you a real gold can as well as £10,000 worth of BrewDog investor shares and a VIP tour of its Brewery in Scotland.

Turned out one man who won one of the gold Punk IPA cans which the brewery valued at £15,000 discovered that the can was neither solid gold and that it was primarily brass.

Watt has been accused of inappropriate behavior towards female staff over his tenure, which he has adamantly denied.

In 2022, BBC Disclosure (think 60 Minutes but with a British accent) debuted a documentary entitled The Truth About BrewDog, which started what Watt calls a 2 year-long coordinated campaign of online harassment, defamation, blackmail, significant fraud, and malicious communications.”

Clearly Watt’s reign within the global craft brewery was destined to hit a wall. During the Covid lockdowns he revealed that his company lost 70% of its revenue overnight and the company’s beer sales are still feeling the sting of that worldwide pandemic.

Speaking with the Drinks Business, leading beer writer Pete Brown said: “It’s long overdue that James Watt steps down. He has always been controversial and that worked with a start-up, but BrewDog now needs to redefine its culture.”


(All image credits: BrewDog)

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