Odell Brewing Turns Company Over to Employees


Another Colorado craft brewery has turned ownership over to its employees.

Fort Collins-based Odell Brewing tonight announced the establishment of an employee stock ownership plan, transferring 19 percent of company stock into a newly formed trust in which all 115 employees will participate.

The stock in the ESOP will change in value as the company grows, the company said in a statement. The founders will remain in active management, with Wynne Odell continuing to serve as CEO.

“The craft beer industry is changing dramatically and we have seen several of our friends and neighbors selling their companies, in whole or part, to major brewers and private equity firms,” brewery founder Doug Odell said in the release. “While these options are more lucrative than the one we chose, we believe that the people who built OBC are the best ones to lead us successfully into the future.”

In the statement, the company said a “majority” of the Odell Brewing stock has been transferred to the brewery’s executive team, including director of sales Eric Smith, COO Brendan McGivney and CFO Chris Banks. The remaining stock (30 percent according to The Coloradoan), will be split equally amongst brewery partners Doug, Wynne and Corkie Odell.

In the release, company founders said the brewery’s “cultural fabric,” its “financial stability,” and “independent control” were motivating factors in its decision to sell shares back to employees.

Founded in 1989, Odell Brewing has enjoyed nearly 26 years of slow and steady growth. In 2013, the company completed an expansion that brought capacity to more than 250,000 barrels. At the time, Doug Odell said capacity was capable of being expanded to 400,000 barrels. Last year, the company produced 99,000 barrels.

When Brewbound spoke to Doug Odell in Nov. 2013, he expressed his interest in exploring a hybrid management buyout and ESOP transition but said it was about “five years away.” He also said the Odell had explored the possibility of establishing an ESOP in the mid-2000s, but said the company was too small.

“At that time, we just didn’t seem to be the proper size to be able to do it in a reasonable manner,” he said. “There is a fairly high cost of administration each year and we needed some bulk before we could do it.”

During that interview, Odell said the company was “leaning towards” transferring at least some of the company to the management. A combination management buyout and ESOP sounded like a “favorable outcome,” Odell said.

Odell joins notable Colorado craft breweries New Belgium and Left Hand Brewing who have also opted to establish ESOPs.

CORRECTION: Prairie Capital Advisors (which also helped to establish Harpoon’s ESOP) acted as an advisor to the ESOP, not as Odell Brewing’s advisor in the transaction. An earlier version of this story inaccurately indicated that Prairie acted as the brewery’s advisor. 

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