Beavertown has sold a substantial stake to Heineken – they’re not specifying how much but 49 per cent seems a reasonable assumption – and our Twitter mentions have gone a bit mad.
That’s because a few weeks ago, you might recall, we wrote a piece reflecting on signs one might look out for to indicate that a brewery is readying itself for sale, pointing to Beavertown as an example of a firm that seemed to be glowing hot.
Now, let’s be clear: our post was actually pretty tentative – might this, possibly that – and, though we named AB-InBev as a possible suitor in the quick Tweet we fired off before the post, we didn’t specify any names in the post proper because we didn’t have a clue.
Even if we’d guessed Heineken would have been low down the list given its fairly recent acquisition of another London brewery, Brixton.
(Although within minutes of our posting multiple people had messaged us to say, “It’s Heineken”, and proper journalists soon ferreted out the story.)
So, yes, we’re feeling pleased that our logic was tested and seems to have held up but, no, we don’t feel like soothsayers or a pair of Mystic Megs. What we came up with was half educated guess, half luck.
In the PR around today’s news Beavertown has addressed a few important points head on, admitting to having swerved telling the truth because (as we acknowledged in our post) businesses don’t generally talk about deals while they’re being negotiated and, indeed, are usually legally prohibited from doing so:
It’s been an uncomfortable few weeks as speculative rumours have been flying about. The reality is that sometimes in business you can’t share everything and I’m a true believer in not talking about anything unless it is a done deal, and up until this very day there was no deal.
It’s at this point, though, that we’ll refer to an even older post of ours, from May last year: breweries could avoid a lot of the criticism and high emotion that hits on takeover day, and lingers for months and even years after, if they made a point of saying from much earlier on in the cycle something like, “We sometimes talk to potential investors and would never rule out selling a stake in the company, just so you know.”
People will probably understand if you have to keep the specifics of particular deals quiet, as long as the very idea that you might be talking to whichever global giant isn’t a nasty surprise.
Whatever the logistics behind the decision, however good the news for the company, regardless of whether the beer stays the same, there will always be people who feel stung when a company which was selling a set of values as much as pale ale decides that one of those values doesn’t matter any more.