New Belgium Brewing becomes a 100% employee-owned company

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[Credit: mfajardo]

Press Release:

(Fort Collins, CO) – New Belgium Brewing is excited to announce that the company’s Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) has purchased the balance of company shares, making it 100% employee-owned. New Belgium, brewer of a wide variety of award-winning beers including Fat Tire Amber Ale, has been a partial ESOP since 2000 with a controlling interest held by co-founder Kim Jordan and her family. This transition will put the company on a path to control their destiny into the foreseeable future.

“There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multi-generational impact – this is one of those times. We have an opportunity to write the next chapter of this incredible story and we’re really excited about that,” said New Belgium CEO and co-founder, Kim Jordan. “We have always had a high involvement ownership culture and this allows us to take that to the next logical level. It will provide an elegant succession framework that keeps the executive team in tact ensuring our vision stays true going forward.”

Jordan plans to remain CEO for the long-term and the executive team at New Belgium will continue in its current form. The Fort Collins brewer is currently building a second facility in Asheville, North Carolina that will begin beer production in 2015. More than 150 additional hires are expected by full build out in Asheville.

New Belgium was advised by Eureka Capital Markets, a middle market investment-banking firm with expertise in both the food & beverage sector and ESOP transactions, which assisted in structuring and completing the second stage ESOP buyout transaction.

“It was an honor to work with a craft brewing leader like New Belgium and help them transition the ownership of the business to its tight culture of employee owners,” said Michael Harden, Managing Director. “Given all of the consolidation occurring in the craft brew sector, we expect that many other craft brewers will investigate how using an ESOP might help them achieve their transition goals while enabling them to remain independent companies.”

The Fort Collins brewer is currently building a second facility in Asheville, North Carolina that will begin beer production in 2015. The transition to 100% ownership will enable New Belgium to include their future co-workers in Asheville, NC in the plan and will drive an even deeper commitment to progressive business practices for the company. More than 150 additional hires are expected by full build out in Asheville.

The deal was completed on the 28th of December with a companywide announcement made during New Belgium’s annual winter retreat on the 14th of January. All 456 employee-owners were present for the celebration. Prior to this deal, New Belgium co-workers held 41% of the company’s shares.

About New Belgium Brewing Company
New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of Fat Tire Amber Ale and a host of Belgian-inspired beers, began operations in a tiny Fort Collins basement in 1991. Today, the third largest craft brewer in the U.S., New Belgium produces nine year-round beers; Fat Tire Amber Ale, Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle Pilsner, 1554 Black Ale, Abbey, Ranger, Belgo IPA, Shift Pale Lager and Trippel, as well as a host of seasonal releases. In addition to producing world-class beers, New Belgium takes pride in being a responsible corporate role model with progressive programs such as employee ownership, open book management and a commitment to environmental stewardship. For more information, visit www.newbelgium.com.

33 thoughts on “New Belgium Brewing becomes a 100% employee-owned company

  1. 100% employee ownership is certainly good, but what is the chance that New Belgium will eventually transition to a worker cooperative? One where it is both employee owned and employee managed?

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  3. Well, the article says that “…Jordan plans to remain CEO for the long-term and the executive team at New Belgium will continue in its current form.” Even with an open book management policy, having an ESOP does not necessarily confer any increased managerial involvement to the employees.

  4. I don’t understand what it means for the company to have owned most of the shares before. If the company is owned by its shareholders, and the only other shareholders are employees, then wouldn’t the employees own the part of the company that owns the other part of itself?

    Or was there a bank loan or something involved here?

  5. That should put an end to all the ABI purchase rumors in the short term, really proud of this decision and happy for all my friends there. Now if they could only figure out how to fix Fat Tire….

    @barefootmeg the employee’s only owned part of the company, with at least 51% of the shares being controlled by Kim Jordan. She has sold her controlling interest and now employees as a group control 100% of the shares. Depending on how the agreement is written, some sort of majority of all the employees would have to agree to sell the company, whereas previously Kim Jordan could do whatever she wanted.

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  7. The employees own the company. The company’s upper management and board report to the shareholders. The only shareholders are the employees. Management and the board have to keep the employees happy as the employees own the company (and all voting rights, I assume).

  8. @Mark
    ESOP ownership gives employees voting rights on only a very narrow range of issues, such as the selling or closing of the company. In the day to day running of the company, however, it normally conveys no voting rights at all. The employees could not vote to replace the CEO or the board, for example.

  9. Is that the difference between an ESOP and a Employee owned Co-op then? In the Co-op they’d have more say (though I’ve also heard it’s hard to get stuff done when various departments don’t agree on issues).

    so DJC, does Kim still own stock? or is she now part of the ESOP? i’m confused on that bit. (and i doubt it’s just kim that sold shares as there were other large owners as well.)

  10. @barefootmeg
    Yes, a worker cooperative conveys both ownership and control rights to the employee/owners. An ESOP conveys ownership, but very little control over the direction of the company. One tends to assume that ownership automatically comes with control rights, but in the case of an ESOP the two are strictly separate. At least that’s the way I understand it.

  11. Employee owned business is not an example of Socialism…the state does not own it. It’s still a private entity.

  12. I’ve made New Belgium’s spokesman aware of some of the questions/points being made here so hopefully, he will come in & clarify any questions we have [just found out that they are busy over there today/this week so we'll see...]. Cheers.

  13. @Dan-O

    You should know what socialists are arguing for before you say things like that. Worker ownership is absolutely socialism. Some Socialists believe “employees” (in their words, workers) should “own” businesses via a state-apparatus, while others want a more decentralized structure (Workers councils, Federations, etc). “Socialism” is a broad umbrella, and its proponents range from Stalinists (although they do not call themselves that) to Anarchists.

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  15. @J.A.
    That’s absurd. New Belgium Brewery is not “socialist” because they’re worker owned. They’re a worker owned corporation within a capitalist, market economy. Even if they were a worker cooperative, they’d still be operating within a market economy and would be bound by its broader rules.

  16. It’s not absurd. It’s actually the Marxist definition.Also capitalism isn’t defined by markets, even feudalism had market economies. You’re getting socialism confused with communism which is the highest form of socialism with no money, state or class.

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  18. An ESOP is, given the right set of circumstances and ownership motivation, an outstanding tool for corporate succession, business and estate planning. In this case it would seem Kim Jordan arrived at a point in her life where she decided to “sell” the company. Her choices were: sell to an outsider(Anheuser-Busch, a hedge fund, etc); go public (which means sell to everyone interested in buying stock in the company), sell to a select management group or use an ESOP. Given my limited understanding of the NBB culture, Kim made the decision in the best interests of all those people who helped her grow the company to where it is today. Did it benefit her? Of course…but not to the detriment of the NBB PEOPLE!!!

  19. “controlling interest held by co-founder Kim Jordan and her family”…since Kim is already an employee isn’t already 100% employee owned? And didn’t she just pay herself and her family to get those shares back?

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  23. As far as the socialism charge, J.A. is spot-on. Many anarchists, whether market-oriented or not, see worker-ownership as one of the defining features of their brands of socialism.

    I don’t think the current understanding of capitalism as privately owned firms versus socialism as state-owned firms really gets to the heart of the issue. As mentioned, anarchists of both the individualist and collectivist schools consider themselves socialists. So, given the fact that they envision a stateless society, the popular definition of socialism as state-ownership must be incorrect or incomplete or something of the sort.

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