UK: Controversial BrewDog CEO Steps Down

James Watt, the co-founder of the Scottish craft beer phenomenon BrewDog, who is admired for his unconventional marketing ideas and criticized for his sometimes contemptuous treatment of employees, is stepping down as CEO. He will take on the newly created position of "captain and co-founder" within the company and will retain his shares in the business.

His role will be taken over by Chief Operating Officer James Arrow, who was hired last September as part of the forward planning for Mr. Watt's replacement. Arrow previously spent a decade at Dixons Carphone, where he held senior roles in e-commerce, trading, operations, sales, and transformation before becoming Managing Director of Boots Opticians.

James Watt co-founded the Scottish brewery and pub group in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, in 2007 alongside Martin Dickie and served as its CEO for the past 17 years.

The success of the brand and the business, with breweries and pubs worldwide, is largely attributable to Watt. Last year, the firm expanded into the Chinese market in a joint venture with Budweiser Brewing Company APAC,  the Asia-Pacific division of AB InBev. (, 20.2.2023).

BrewDog's revenue grew to GBP 321.2m (USD 406.8m) in the 2022-23 financial year.

Company Chairman Allan Leighton said, "Few have accomplished what Mr. Watt has. I am especially pleased he will continue to offer his insight, creative genius, and energy to the board."

Despite all his successes, Mr. Watt is also very controversial.

“During my time at the helm of BrewDog, there have been highs and lows, up and downs, crazy successes and incredibly hard challenges,” Watts said in a personal statement.

Watts has faced criticism for some of its marketing campaigns and workplace culture.

In 2021, Watts apologized to staff for the "lot of pain" he caused after being accused by former workers in an open letter of fostering a "culture of fear" within the business and exhibiting "toxic attitudes" toward junior staff. (, 17.6.2021)

In 2022, several ex-BrewDog workers accused Watt of inappropriate behavior in a BBC Disclosure investigation, which Watt allegedly tried to prevent from airing by intimidating the whistleblowers. (, 21.1.2022)

In January, BrewDog faced backlash after announcing it would stop hiring new staff at the real living wage and instead pay the lower legal minimum wage.

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