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Brewdog boss James Watt calls time on 17 years in charge | Business News


Brewdog’s co-founder and chief executive James Watt has revealed he is to step down from the top job after 17 years.

He wrote on a LinkedIn post that he was to retain his 21% stake in the brewer and pub firm and become “captain and co-founder” – a newly created non-executive board role that would see him continue to offer oversight and advice.

James Arrow, Brewdog’s chief operating officer, will succeed him.

Mr Watt announced the decision just weeks after the TUC branded him “the worst employer of the month”.

The union organisation said it reflected Brewdog’s decision this year to no longer hire new staff on the “real” living wage, instead paying the lower legal minimum wage.

Mr Watt attracted similar criticism in 2021 after a group of former workers called out a “culture of fear” within the business, with “toxic attitudes” towards junior staff.

Mr Watt apologised saying it was “100% my fault”, later telling Sky News that he had occasionally been “too demanding“.

The controversy took some of the gloss off the company’s enviable record at the time.

Martin Dickie (l) and James Watt founded the company in 2007. Pic: AP
Image:
Martin Dickie (l) and James Watt founded the company in 2007. Pic: AP

Mr Watt, along with Martin Dickie, founded the business from a garage in Fraserburgh in 2007.

As Brewdog chairman Allan Leighton noted in his tribute: “From very humble beginnings under his leadership, Brewdog has grown to become the world’s leading craft brewer, employing 2,530 people across its head office, four breweries and over 120 bars.

“I am especially pleased he will continue to offer his insight, creative genius and energy to the board,” he added.

Brewdog has more than 100 bars and sells its products globally. Pic: Brewdog
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Brewdog has 120 bars and sells its products globally. Pic: Brewdog

Mr Watt added: “During my time at the helm of Brewdog, there have been highs and lows, up and downs, crazy successes and incredibly hard challenges.

“When I look back on the last 17 years (119 Dog Years) my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.”

He said he was “grateful for the tough times too, for the learnings they provided, the resolve they instilled and the perspective they offered”.

He said he plans to “take a bit of time off, to travel, to spend more time with my family and friends.

“I am also looking forward to being able to dedicate some more time to my other business interests.”

James Watt and Georgia Toffolo 
Pic:Shutterstock/PA
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James Watt and Georgia Toffolo are dating. Pic: Shutterstock/PA

Mr Watt, whose girlfriend is former Made In Chelsea star Georgia Toffolo, has been investing in start-up firms and last year led the Next Unicorn competition, sharing out £1m of funding between five companies.

TUC general secretary Paul Novak said of his looming departure: “This should be a cautionary tale to bad bosses.

“If you slash workers’ pay and conditions you will be called out in public and your business will suffer.

“Brewdog’s success has been built on the back of its workforce. They deserve to be valued properly.

“My message to the new CEO is simple – pay your staff the real Living Wage.”



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