BrewDog CEO stands down

James Watt (Brewdog)

JAMES Watt is stepping down from CEO of Aberdeenshire-brewer BrewDog, 17 years after co-founding the company.

He’s regularly been in the headlines while at the helm of the Ellon-headquartered beer-maker since creating the company with friend Martin Dickie in a garage in Freserburgh.

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Watt was accused of striking a “culture of fear” within the business by former workers. He apologised a vowed to “take it on the chin” and use it as an “opportunity to get better”.

In spite of the allegations, the company has grown ten-fold since 2014, with group revenue in 2022 at £321million.

James Arrow, COO of BrewDog, will take over from Watt as CEO.

The company now employs more than 2,300 people worldwide, though has retained its headquarters in Ellon.

Watt to remain ‘captain and co-founder’

In a statement released on LinkedIn, Watt confirmed his intentions to retain his 21% stake in the company and work as a non-executive director.

“After 17 fantastic years as CEO, I have decided to transition into a new role in the business, one of ‘Captain & Co-Founder’ – and James Arrow will pick up the reins as CEO as our business pushes forward into our next phase of growth.

“In my new role I will remain as a board member, a director and I will also be part time strategic advisor to the business and our to leadership team. Furthermore, I will retain my BrewDog shareholding and my Hop Stock initiative whereby I give 20% of my BrewDog shares to the team will remain in place.”

He added: “During my time at the helm of BrewDog, there have been highs and lows, up and downs, crazy successes and incredibly hard challenges. When I look back on the last 17 years (119 Dog Years) my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.

“Gratitude to have been able to build the world’s leading craft beer brand, from scratch. Gratitude to have been able to work with such amazing people all over our business including our fantastic community. I am eternally thankful for all the brilliant beers, all the standout batches of Jack Hammer and all the wild adventures we have been on as a team.

“I am also grateful for the tough times too, for the learnings they provided, the resolve they instilled and the perspective they offered.

“As for BrewDog going forward, I am really excited to see the next phase of our growth. We have great momentum in our most important sales channels and our team, at all levels of the business, is in incredibly good shape.”

Who is James Arrow?

The successor to Watt, Arrow was hired as COO as part of a succession plan put in place by chairman Allan Leighton.

Prior to joining the brewer in September last year, Arrow spent four years as managing director of Boots Opticians. He’d previously held senior roles at Dixons Carphone (now Currys) and Carphone Warehouse.

Upon his appointment as CEO he said: “James and Martin have created a fantastic business. I am looking forward to building on their achievements and leading this business through the next phase of its development.”

Chairman Leighton said: “James Arrow is a proven leader. His eight months as COO have given him a great insight into the business. The board is delighted to have him as CEO, to lead the company into its next phase of growth.”

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