Germany: Heidelberger Brewery Plans "Succession Agreement"

Heidelberg may have only around 162,000 residents, but it boasts approximately 38,000 students. Additionally, around 13.9 million visitors come here every year. Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a brewery here that benefits from the international fame of the city.

The fate of this brewery will now be placed in new hands. Owner Michael Mack is selling Heidelberger Brewery, which produces around 25,000 hectoliters, to Max Spielmann and his Welde Brewery from neighboring Plankstadt, which is more than three times larger.

The history of the Heidelberger Brewery is a tale of prolonged adversity.

Founded in 1753 in the historical center of Heidelberg, Germany, the brewery was part of the German Brau & Brunnen Group in the 1980s and largely overlooked during this period. In 1996, Werner Kindermann, a proxy of SAP billionaire Dietmar Hopp, bought what was then known as Heidelberger Schlossquell.

Next to Heidelberger, Kindermann, respectively Hopp, was acquiring several breweries in the Rhein-Main area, and people close to the matter assumed that Hopp’s interest in the “low-tech” industry (Hopp) arose primarily from the valuable real estate of the breweries, which mostly exceeded the purchase price. Consequently, the brewery in Heidelberg's city center was stripped down, and instead, a small and only basic brewing facility was erected on the outskirts of Heidelberg.

As public opinion turned against philanthropist Hopp, he divested himself of all beverage-related activities. The brand of the Henninger Brewery in Frankfurt could still be sold to the neighboring Radeberger Group, and the highly valuable brewery site in Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen was converted from industrial to residential land and redeveloped by one of Hopp's subsidiaries.

With few interested buyers for the other partially dilapidated businesses, including the Heidelberger Brewery, and fearing public outcry if the businesses were closed, the remaining enterprises were mostly sold to longtime employees for a nominal fee under a management buyout (MBO) arrangement. These employees were tasked with rebuilding or at least keeping the businesses alive, often with significant personal risk and dedication.

Thus, at the Heidelberger Brewery, Michael Mack, who had started as an apprentice at the brewery in 1974 and had been the brewery's chief accountant for many years, became the new brewery owner. It goes without saying that Mack could not bring in much equity capital, and therefore, the brewery struggled to keep up with competitors.

Without its own bottling facility and lacking the support of a large investor, the Heidelberger Brewery shrunk over the years from around 40,000 hectoliters to around 25,000 hectoliters. It goes without saying that the COVID pandemic, with the closure of all restaurants, particularly affected a brewery heavily reliant on the gastronomy sector like Heidelberger.

Therefore, in 2020, Mack initially tried his luck with Chinese investors who wanted to build a replica of historical Heidelberg, including a new 3 million hectoliter brewery, on 170 hectares in China (, 3.12.2020). A replica of Heidelberg Castle was also built on the campus of the electronics company Huawei, but the 3 million hectoliter brewery was never realized.

After Mack's children signaled that they were not interested in continuing the brewery, the 69-year-old closed a "succession agreement" on March 15, 2024, with the neighboring family-run Welde Brewery from Plankstadt.

Its CEO, Max Spielmann, is a business graduate, brewmaster, and beer sommelier, and is only 35 years old. He will initially serve as the managing director of the Heidelberger Brewery, with Mack advising him for another year.

The first 100 days are titled as a "trial phase," during which both breweries will continue to operate independently, "assert themselves in the market on their own strength, and learn from each other." During this time, Spielmann plans to introduce the use of aroma hops in all brewing processes at the Heidelberger Brewery. "This will be a challenging transformation process and there will be enough work for the initial period," says the new brewery chief.

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