“James Watt, Brewdog CEO, Steps Down After 17 Years in Leadership”

Brewdog Co-Founder and CEO James Watt Steps Down After 17 Years in Top Job

After 17 years at the helm of Brewdog, co-founder and chief executive James Watt has announced that he will be stepping down from his position. In a LinkedIn post, Mr. Watt shared that he will be retaining his 21% stake in the brewer and pub firm and taking on a new role as “captain and co-founder” on the non-executive board. In this role, he will continue to provide oversight and advice to the company.

Brewdog’s chief operating officer, James Arrow, will be succeeding Mr. Watt as CEO. The announcement comes just weeks after the TUC (Trades Union Congress) named Mr. Watt as “the worst employer of the month”. This designation was in response to Brewdog’s decision to stop hiring new staff at the “real” living wage and instead paying the lower legal minimum wage.

This is not the first time Mr. Watt has faced criticism for his handling of the company. In 2021, a group of former workers spoke out about a “culture of fear” and “toxic attitudes” towards junior staff at Brewdog. Mr. Watt took responsibility for these issues, stating that it was “100% my fault” and later admitting to being “too demanding” at times in an interview with Sky News.

Despite these controversies, Mr. Watt has played a significant role in Brewdog’s success since co-founding the business in 2007 with Martin Dickie. Under his leadership, Brewdog has become the world’s leading craft brewer, employing over 2,500 people across its head office, four breweries, and 120 bars.

Allan Leighton, Brewdog’s chairman, praised Mr. Watt’s contributions to the company, stating, “From very humble beginnings, under his leadership, Brewdog has grown to become one of the most successful craft brewers in the world.” He also expressed his excitement for Mr. Watt to continue offering his insight, creative genius, and energy to the board in his new role.

Reflecting on his time at Brewdog, Mr. Watt shared, “During my tenure, there have been highs and lows, successes and challenges. But my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.” He expressed gratitude for the tough times as well, stating that they provided valuable learnings and helped him gain perspective.

Mr. Watt plans to take some time off to travel, spend more time with family and friends, and dedicate more time to his other business interests. He has been actively investing in start-up firms and even led the Next Unicorn competition last year, where £1m of funding was shared among five companies.

TUC general secretary Paul Novak commented on Mr. Watt’s departure, stating, “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.” He urged the new CEO to prioritize paying staff the real living wage, stating that Brewdog’s success has been built on the hard work of its employees.

In light of this news, Mr. Watt’s girlfriend, former Made In Chelsea star Georgia Toffolo, has expressed her support for his decision and is excited to see what the future holds for him.

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