The Oettinger brewery in Gotha, threatened with closure, has been saved. As became known today, the Paulaner Brewery Group GmbH & Co. KGaA signed on Friday a contract to purchase the brewing site and its areas of production, bottling, logistics and central services with around 170 jobs. The 23 employees in Gotha in the sales, export and marketing departments are to remain with the Oettinger brewery. For this reason, the Oettinger brewery will immediately start negotiations with the works council. All jobs should be preserved.
Subject to the approval of the antitrust authorities, the Gotha site is to be transferred to Paulaner with legal effect on January 1, 2023.
In June, Oettinger’s managing partner Pia Kollmar, announced to close the 1.8 million hectoliter brewery in Thuringia, in view of declining sales and underutilized capacity in the group. (inside.beer, 8.6.2022)
After the announcement, there was strong opposition from unions, employees and local politicians. Quickly it became clear that the closure would not be cheap for the Oettinger Group. According to internal information, Oettinger had already set aside 14 million euros for severance payments. Therefore people close to the matter estimate the purchase price – although not officially disclosed – to be in the single-digit million euro range.
The deal does not only solve a problem for Oettinger but also for Paulaner. Despite building a new brewery on the outskirts of Munich seven years ago and expanding it only two years later (inside.beer, 2.6.2017), the brewery site has already reached the limits of its capacity of 3.5 million hectoliters.
However, the success is only partly due to the 17 types of beer that are currently brewed at the Munich site. Much more important is the well-known Bavarian soft drink brand Spezi, which is produced in two versions and which is expected to exceed the one million hectoliter mark this year.
Since 1974, Spezi has been produced by Paulaner with permission from the inventors, the Riegele family brewery in nearby Augsburg. The contract concluded almost 50 years ago provided for a demarcation of the sales areas of the two breweries, for which Paulaner had to make a compensation payment at the time.
The Augsburg-based company now also wanted to participate in the success of the brand at Paulaner and tried to terminate the agreement in order to enforce an annual license fee of 4 to 5 million euros. After no amicable agreement could be found, the two parties went to court. The 33rd civil chamber at the Munich I district court decided last week in Paulaner's favour. The judges ruled that the trademark rights have been settled with the one-time payment from 1974 and the agreement is therefore still valid.
For Paulaner, last week's news was most likely the final impetus for the purchase of the brewery in Gotha. Or to put it in the words of Dr. Jörg Lehmann, CEO of the Paulaner Brewery Group: “In order to take into account the constantly growing popularity of [our] product range and the corresponding sales increases in recent years and to enable further sustainable growth, we have examined production locations and attractive acquisitions. We found that in Gotha.”
Pia Kollmar emphasizes: “We are very pleased that the brewery’s jobs in Gotha will be retained with the sale to Paulaner. At the same time, for us at Oettinger, this is an important step in our corporate restructuring with a good solution for everyone involved.”