Marston's, the world's largest brewer of cask ale and operator of over 1,700 pubs in the UK, is buying the historic Eagle Brewery in Bedford, 58 miles (93 km) north-west of London. The seller, Charles Wells, said in a press statement that it agreed terms to sell its sole brewery and various brand sales interests for a cash consideration of £55 million ($71m), plus working capital adjustments. The sale includes the 500,000 barrel (587,000 hl) brewery, which was originally build 1976 with a capacity of only 100,000 barrel (117,000 hl) and leading ale brands Bombardier, Courage, and McEwan’s as well as the UK distribution rights for Kirin Lager, Estrella Damm, Erdinger and Founders and the exclusive global license of the Young’s brand. Wine merchants Cockburn & Campbell are also included.
Charles Wells, which was founded in 1876 by the eponymous brewer in Bedford, will keep its over 200 leased and tenanted pubs in the UK and France as well as the beer brands Charlie Wells and John Bull. However, national sales, and brands marketing will transfer to Marston’s.
“Today’s announcement signals an exit from higher volume national sales in favour of a more local and smaller scale brewing future in Bedford. The key focus will become the expansion of the managed pub businesses in the UK and France through acquisition, alongside additional investment in the leased and tenanted estate.” a spokesman of Charles Wells said.
He added: “In the next couple of years Charles Wells will invest in a small new, Bedford based, brewery to supply beers to its pub customers in the UK and Europe, and brewing and supply agreements will be made with Marston’s for interim brewing and longer term exclusive pub distribution services. The Charles Wells pub estate will have the benefit of the wider beer and wine range available from Marston’s.”
Justin Phillimore, who succeeded Charles Wells’ former CEO and member of the founder's family Paul Wells in 2015, explained the reasons for the sale: “After a detailed review of our strategy we had decided to re-balance the company more towards retail investment and that meant finding a partner we could work with for the future. There are opportunities for both companies in this deal and we look forward to bringing them to life.”
Ralph Findlay, Chief Executive Officer of Marston’s PLC, commented: “Marston’s is delighted to have reached this agreement with Charles Wells and is absolutely committed to the future of brewing in Bedford. This agreement offers us opportunities to extend our trading area into new areas. The acquisition of the Charles Wells brewing business builds on Marston’s established brewing prowess and is a further step in our objective to develop the leading premium beer business in the UK market, something that Bedford’s Eagle Brewery will play an important part in.”
Marston’s so far owned five breweries (Park Brewery in Wolverhampton, Marston's Brewery in Burton upon Trent, Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth, Wychwood Brewery in Witney and Ringwood Brewery in Ringwood) and brands including Marston's, Banks's, Jennings, Ringwood and Wychwood.