Thursday, July 27, 2017

Head In The Mash Tun

Good Beer Hunting has a stunning article on a Lagunitas-owned limited liability company's purchase of a 19.9% interest in Shorts Brewing Company.  Shorts is based in Bellaire, Michigan.  The purchasing company is called Lagunitas U.S. Holdings, LLC, or LUSH, and is 100% owned by Lagunitas.  Lagunitas formed LUSH with the intention of buying and/or partnering regional breweries.

What is stunning is not Lagunitas forming LUSH, or Lagunitas acquiring an interest in Shorts, or Shorts selling a fifth of itself, but the naive comments from Shorts' owners.  It is as though they do not even know or want to admit to themselves who really acquired the interest in their company.  Lagunitas is 100% owned by Heineken, so the 19.9% interest in Shorts acquired by LUSH is owned by Heineken*.  If that is what Shorts owners wanted, fine.  The sale decision by small breweries is ultimately a personal decision, and while cranky beer bloggers and upset craft beer drinking purists may bitch, it is not us making payroll twice a month.  Don't sell to a big brewer and pretend you did not.

The task of grasping this type of subsidiary genealogy is a somewhat-intentionally complicated one, as evidenced by the Short’s team’s own understanding of it all. Reached by GBH, Joe Short, who founded the eponymous beer maker back in 2004, conceded even he isn’t exactly sure of “how it works with Heineken buying Lagunitas.” Kerry Cochran, a Short’s sales person who covers Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, added she, too, wasn’t entirely positive of how LUSH related to Heineken, describing the green-glassed goliath as a “third cousin” or “third uncle.”

Some at Shorts do understand what is happening:

So here’s Scott Newman-Bale, a partner at Short’s, with the most helpful and clear distillation of the deal: “Although our arrangement is with Lagunitas U.S. Holdings, we’re not trying to hide the fact that Heineken is ultimately the one that owns the shares. But we’ve never actually talked to Heineken at all.”

If you never talk to the company buying your company, you do not have the right to complain about future changes and corporate mandates.  According to the article, LUSH has an option to purchase the remaining 80.1% of Shorts.  This article has popped up multiple times on my twitter timeline in the past twenty-four hours.  I encourage you to read it.

* I read through Heineken's website after reading this article.  I did not find any reference to Lagunitas as a Heineken brand or wholly-owned company.  Strange.  All I saw was one picture of a bottle of Lagunitas IPA with bottles of Heineken's other international brands.  I guess Heineken's attempt to obscure its ownership of Lagunitas is intentional.

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