James Watt to step down as BrewDog chief executive

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

James Watt to step down as BrewDog chief executive after 17 years

Related tags James watt Brewdog

BrewDog co-founder James Watt has announced he is stepping down as chief executive of the multinational brewer and pub operator after 17 years.

In a LinkedIn post​, Watt confirmed he would be transitioning to a new role within the business titled ‘captain and co-founder’, with chief operating officer James Arrow replacing him as CEO.

Watt will remain a board member and director at BrewDog and be a part time strategic advisor to the business and its leadership team. He will also retain his 21% shareholding in the company.

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

“When I look back on the last 17 years my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.

“Gratitude to have been able to build the world’s leading craft beer brand, from scratch. Gratitude to have been able to work with such amazing people all over our business including our fantastic community. I am eternally thankful for all the brilliant beers, all the standout batches of Jack Hammer and all the wild adventures we have been on as a team.

“I am also grateful for the tough times too, for the learnings they provided, the resolve they instilled and the perspective they offered.”

BrewDog said it had put in place succession plans after Watt first told the board last year that he wanted to step away to focus on his other projects and interests.

Chairman Allan Leighton said: “James Watt, alongside Martin Dickie, created this great business from a garage in Fraserburgh.

“Few have accomplished what he has. From very humble beginnings under his leadership, BrewDog has grown to become the world's leading craft brewer, employing 2,530 people across its head office, four breweries and over 120 bars.

“I am especially pleased he will continue to offer his insight, creative genius and energy to the board.”

Despite his success at building BrewDog into a multinational business, Watt’s tenure has in recent years been marred by controversy.

Back in 2021, the group was forced to carry out an independent review of its culture and HR practices​ following accusations that it fostered a toxic working environment​.

Watt himself also came under fire, with an episode of BBC Scotland's Disclosure​ programme broadcast in 2022 accusing him of inappropriate behaviour towards women and abuse of power in the workplace​.

At the time, Watt described the documentary as 'malicious' and 'based largely on untruths'. He 'utterly refuted' the characterisation of him and lodged an official complaint against the state broadcaster​.

However, those complaints were rejected by Ofcom​ earlier this year.

More recently, BrewDog faced a backlash after dropping its commitment to the Real Living Wag​e.

Looking ahead to the future of BrewDog, Watt added that he is ‘really excited’ for the next stage of the group’s growth.

“We have great momentum in our most important sales channels and our team, at all levels of the business, is in incredibly good shape,” he said.

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