Sweetwater CEO Departs; Longtime Distributor Executive to Oversee Commercial Operations


Kim Jones

Six months after promoting then-CFO Kim Jones to CEO, Sweetwater Brewing and the former executive have parted ways, Brewbound has learned.

Tucker Berta Sarkisian, a spokeswoman with Sweetwater, confirmed Jones’ departure, saying only that she had moved on.

In a separate but related move, Sweetwater has also hired Paul “PK” Kirbabas, the current director of sales administration for Georgia’s United Distributors, to lead the brewery’s commercial operations.

Kirbabas is not replacing Jones directly, though he will take over many of her former responsibilities, according to Sarkisian. Those responsibilities include all commercial operations and distributor relations, she added.

Kirbabas has not been given an official title and there are no immediate plans to hire a new CEO, Sarkisian said. He will oversee Sweetwater’s sales and marketing departments, and, along with chief financial officer Bill Waters, who replaced Jones as the company’s CFO last July, will advise brewery founder Freddy Bensch on key decisions that will impact the company’s future direction.

“Under PK’s leadership, United Distributors put Sweetwater on the map, and I’m incredibly grateful for and proud of what we’ve built together over the last 15 years,” Bensch said via a press release. “Now, I’m forever grateful to them for sharing PK’s exceptional talent with us.”  

Kirbabas began with United nearly 30 years ago and helped the company grow from 250,000 cases to more than 10 million annually, according to Sweetwater’s press release.

“I’ve tried to hire PK before – a few years ago, he turned me down because he said he’d be much more valuable to Sweetwater on the distributor side, and at that time he was right,” Bensch said. “But now PK and I both agree:  It’s time for him to join the Sweetwater team.  PK gets the craft beer industry and the critical relationship between the brewery and the people who distribute, sell and buy our beer.   He also gets our brand and culture, and who we are at our core.”

It’s been a busy 18 months for Sweetwater: In November, the company announced the purchase of brewing equipment from North American Breweries’ shuttered Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, Calif., and revealed plans to build a second location in the west. Also in 2015, and amidst reports that the company was considering going public, Sweetwater expanded distribution across the east coast, entering New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The brand is currently sold in 18 states, as well as Washington D.C.

In September 2014, the company sold a minority stake to private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners, which also owns part of Pabst Brewing.