Last Call: Lead Investor in Ballast Point Sale to Kings & Convicts Revealed; Brooklyn Brewery Restructures Sales Team

The Wine Group Chairman Backs Kings & Convicts in Ballast Point Purchase

Richard Mahoney, the chairman of the board of The Wine Group, is the lead investor in Chicagoland craft brewery Kings & Convicts’ acquisition of Ballast Point Brewing Company from Constellation Brands, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s backed me and I’ve made him money — he’s also made a lot of money elsewhere — but he’s backed me since 2003,” Kings & Convicts co-founder and CEO Brendan Watters told the Tribune. Mahoney is also the largest stakeholder in Kings & Convicts.

The Wine Group’s 25 wine brands include Cupcake, Franzia, Flip Flop and Benziger.

Since Constellation Brands announced the deal to unload Ballast Point, industry observers have pondered the sale price for the San Diego craft brewery that sold for $1 billion in cash just four years ago. Subscription-based newsletter Beer Business Daily reported that Credit Suisse analyst Kaumil Gajrawala pegged the transaction at under $100 million.

According to financial services firm Cowen, Ballast Point sales are down 32% year-to-date.

Read more about the Ballast Point sale here.

Brooklyn Brewery Restructures U.S. Sales Staff

Brooklyn Brewery has restructured its U.S. sales team in an effort “to better reflect the realities of the current U.S. beer market,” the company announced this week.

“Simply put, craft brewers have been putting too many resources into hand selling, and have been under-investing in the marketing and brand building sides of the business for too long,” the company said. “In some markets supplier reps outnumber distributor reps, with craft brewers continually adding staff and creating a headcount race that isn’t sustainable. We have not been immune to this problem, and today took the step to reduce our sales force to a more rational level.”

Brooklyn pointed to Bel Air Sour and non-alcoholic offering Special Effects as examples of beers succeeding with “a truly differentiated brand identity” and “supported by a solid marketing campaign.”

“Moreover, when products with a clear and unique identity are supported by solid execution tools, distributor sales forces are able to sell them on their own without the hand-selling support of supplier reps,” the company added. “In short, we need to transform into a company that develops and sells unique and well-executed products, with strong marketing and PR support, that our distributors can sell on their own, and move away from the unsustainable hand selling approach of yesteryear.”

The restructuring comes about three months after David Duffy left his role at Brooklyn as VP of business development to become chief commercial officer at Denver-based Stem Ciders.

Following Duffy’s exit, Brooklyn Brewery president Robin Ottaway told Brewbound that the company didn’t have plans to backfill Duffy’s position.

“It’s a testament to Duffy’s excellence that he left our sales organization and management team in great shape, so we don’t have immediate plans to replace him,” he wrote in an email.

In July 2017, Brooklyn announced plans to create a national sales and distribution platform with more than 150 sales personnel and brand ambassadors covering 38 states. As part of those plans, Brooklyn combined sales forces with California’s 21st Amendment (21A) and Colorado’s Funkwerks. Brooklyn, which sold a 24.5 percent stake to Japan’s Kirin Brewery in October 2016, acquired undisclosed minority stakes in both craft breweries.

NBWA Beer Purchasers Index Contracts in November

The National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index — a survey of wholesalers’ purchasing behavior — found that beer buying contracted 23 points in November.

The November index of 47 was down from a reading of 70 in October. The reading is in line with November 2018’s index of 48.

Flavored malt beverages’ index continued to surge, with an index of 69, up from November 2018’s index of 63.

The craft beer segment index dropped four points, to an index of 53, from last year, but has hovered near the 50 mark for much of 2019, indicating segment expansion.

All three domestic beer segments had readings lower than 50, and thus, contracted. Premium light beer increased six points over its November 2018 reading to 37; premium regular increased four points to 29. Below premium beers increased six points from its November 2018 to 40.

The Cider index continued to contract, with an index of 32. The NBWA projects cider to continue contracting, as regional cideries capture share from national brands.

Ladyface Ale Companie Sells to Customer

Ladyface Ale Companie’s founder Cyrena Nouzille sold the 10-year-old Agoura Hills, California-based brewpub to a customer named Pete Lee in late October, according to the Ventura County Star.

Lee plans to rename the establishment Ladyface Brewery & Restaurant. Head brewer Dave Griffiths will remain in his role. Lee plans to use a Japanese barbecue-themed menu at the brewpub.

Nouzille serves as one of five brewpub representatives on the board of directors for national trade group the Brewers Association (BA). She was elected to the three-year term in 2017.

Ladyface opened in November 2009; last year, the brewpub produced 560 barrels of beer.

Christian Moerlein Adds Equity Partners, Names New Leadership Team

Cincinnati’s Christian Moerlein Brewing Company has sold an equity stake to three former marketing and advertising executives and added them to the brewery’s leadership team, the company announced in a press release this week.

Those appointments include:

  • Jay Woffington, former global president of global digital marketing and advertising agency POSSIBLE, as CEO;
  • Michael Graham, the former global COO of POSSIBLE, as CFO;
  • And Jodi Woffington, the former chief client officer at POSSIBLE, as CMO.

Christian Moerlein’s founder and current CEO, Greg Hardman, will remain with the company as founder and chief market development officer.

“We have some amazing brands and, with the addition of this team, we are now poised to capitalize on their untapped potential.” he said in the release.

Jay Woffington will leave his current role as executive director of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in January to join the craft brewery. He and incoming CMO Jodi Woffington are married, according to Jay Woffington’s profile on the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s website.

“With solid brands, an experienced leadership team, a legacy in the beer business and funding to provide the rocket fuel, we’ve got all the ingredients to make a mark on the industry,” Woffington said.

Christian Moerlein also sells the sells Hudepohl, Burger and Little Kings brands, and the new leadership team plans to accelerate and build around the Little Kings brand.

“We want to bring Little Kings to a new generation of consumers,” Hardman said in the release. “And so I put the team together that could do it.”

“People are looking for lighter, sessionable beers with natural ingredients and lower calories,” Jodi Woffington added. “Little Kings meets all these needs.”

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