CBA Exec Departs as Company Eliminates Emerging Business Division

Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) has shut down its emerging business division and, in the process, let go of a key executive who had been with the company since 2011.

In an SEC filing, CBA today announced that John Glick, who most recently served as the vice president of the company’s emerging business unit, would leave to “pursue other business opportunities.”

In an email to Brewbound, CEO Andy Thomas described Glick’s departure as a “mutual decision.”

“We both discussed and agreed that there wasn’t a position that made sense for both parties at this point,” he wrote.

The move comes as CBA has shifted its strategy to focus more on “innovation,” instead of mergers and acquisitions.

Since it was formally established in April 2015, CBA’s emerging business unit spent $2.1 million to acquire a 24.5 percent stake in just one company: Miami’s Wynwood Brewing. It has also formed strategic partnerships with Massachusetts-based Cisco Brewing and North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountain Brewery (AMB).

The deals with Cisco and AMB gave those companies access to CBA’s wholesaler network via master distribution agreements. Cisco and AMB were also able to utilize brewing capacity at CBA’s facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

At the time the Cisco deal was announced, Thomas said CBA planned to purchase a minority stake in the business. That investment has yet to materialize.

Moving forward, CBA said it would refocus its efforts on innovation, and the company has named Karmen Olson, who had been serving as the director of emerging business partnerships and reporting to Glick, to the newly created role of “director of innovation.”

Reached by phone, Olson characterized the changes as an “evolution” of the company’s original partnership strategy.

“We’ve done a good job of innovating within the individual brands, but we haven’t done a very good job of leveraging all of the benefits of the partnerships, and the access we have to multiple breweries and brewers,” she said. “We are taking what we’ve already established and evolving it to work across our brands, breweries and partners.”

By focusing on innovation with existing partners, instead of acquiring new ones, CBA hopes to create “innovative products that challenge the way the beer industry is thinking about addressing consumer needs,” Olson said.

Olson, who will now report to COO Scott Mennen, added that CBA could look to categories “outside of beer,” including wine, spirits, and cannabis, for inspiration.

“All bets are off,” she said. “I want to evaluate what’s happening in cannabis, or what sake might look like in our portfolio.”

Olson will also continue to serve as the “liaison” between CBA and its smaller craft partners.

When asked, Thomas refuted the notion that CBA’s decision to shift away from M&A bolstered ongoing speculation that Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns 31.5 percent of CBA, would make a qualifying offer to purchase the company in 2018.

A-B InBev, via its “High End” division, has purchased 10 craft breweries and one cidery since 2011.

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