Brewbound Podcast Episode 22: Russian River’s Natalie Cilurzo on Managing Debt and Buying Out Investors

In 1997, the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. posthumously released the chart-topping hit “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”

Biggie’s maxim — one that speaks to the issues that can arise as profits grow — comes to mind when Russian River Brewing co-founder Natalie Cilurzo explains the difficulty of convincing early-stage investors to sell their stakes in one the world’s most highly acclaimed beer companies.

“The bigger your company gets, and the more successful it becomes, and the better your cash flows, and the bigger your profits, and the bigger your dividends — the less likely you are going to have investors that want to sell out,” she said.

According to Cilurzo, who co-owns the brewery with husband Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing bought most of the company’s early investors out between 2012 and 2014. At that time, craft beer sales were growing double-digits and startups were flooding the market trying to get a piece of the action.

“We ended up having to pay a lot of money to successfully make them whole and buy everybody out,” she said, noting that conversations were “difficult.”

In order to reclaim all of their interest in Russian River, the Cilurzos’ went to the bank and put up their “life and limb” as collateral.

“We didn’t own land, and so you don’t have really valuable property,” she said. “All you have are all of your assets tied up in your business.”

In episode 22 of the Brewbound Podcast, Cilurzo sits down for a wide-ranging conversation that examines the process of managing debt, buying out investors, building a $50 million brewery, exploring industry trends and more.

Also in this episode: Brewbound editors Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall discuss Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl LIII commercials and Sierra Nevada’s first-ever acquisition. They also give their Warm Shelf/Cold Box nominations of the week, and play a game of “Did Andy Crouch Tweet That?”

Listen to episode 22 of the Brewbound Podcast above, as well as on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and Soundcloud. New episodes of the Brewbound Podcast, which is co-hosted by Furnari and Kendall, are published every Thursday.

Episode 23, featuring Beer Advocate founders Jason and Todd Alström, will be released on Thursday, February 14. For questions, comments or suggestions, please email podcast@brewbound.com.

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Brewbound Podcast

The Brewbound Podcast features interviews with beer industry executives and entrepreneurs, along with highlights and commentary from the weekly news. New episodes every Thursday.