The beer universe went a bit crazy on Friday with the announcement in the St. Louis Business Journal that Schlafly brewery was up for sale. I have to admit, I was caught a bit off-guard by the news myself (and I’m a part-time employee.) It didn’t help that only a portion of the article was made available on the Business Journal website. The article cut off with Tom Schlafly saying:
“My preference would be to sell most of my shares to an employee-based group at whatever the fair market price is,” said Schlafly, 61. “I don’t want to take the highest bidder from a Cayman Islands venture fund. It would be more responsible to have it in the hands of someone who has a sense of stewardship, people who have helped build the company and understand what our conscience is.”
[Dan] Kopman, who is the brewery’s director of operations, tells Gut Check that while discussions have begun, “There’s no great sense of urgency. The thought was, Tom [Schlafly] doesn’t have family that will come into the business, and I don’t have family likely to come into the business. We started to think, ‘What’s going to happen?'”
Kopman adds, “We’ve got employees who’ve really helped us get from [point] A to B. It made sense to start the conversation [with them] now. It could take a number of years to figure this out. Tom and I felt it was really important — we wanted to have a very open process with our employees. There are no secrets to hide.”
Not that I was really concerned about the sale before Dan’s comments, but what he was saying really made sense. If there isn’t someone to step into Dan or Tom’s footsteps if something were to happen, then there was a possibility of problems for the employees working at Schlafly.
So, let’s make something very clear: This isn’t about the end of Schlafly, it’s about the future.
This isn’t a company that’s looking to sell tomorrow and make a quick buck. This isn’t going to be a sale that’s going to happen this month or this year, it’s a possibility this may not even happen in the next five years.
This is a company that realizes that there will need to be some sort of plan in place when the inevitable happens. You need to look out for the company you’ve created and the people you’ve employed. The best way of doing that is by having the employees purchase into the company and to find someone who holds the same ideals and outlook for the business.
And let’s be honest, whomever comes in to purchase this company has some problems in front of them. If they’re looking to increase sales, they’re going to have to increase capacity. The Bottleworks will be pretty much at capacity over the next couple of years. So, a new brewery will probably have to be built. That’s going to take a lot of capital.
Now, does this mean we’re guaranteed that everything will be fine and dandy in ten years time? No. This is a business and anything can happen. Any kind of unease or concern you’re feeling about this sale is probably being felt tenfold by employees at Schlafly. But if there is any local company that can pull off a sale and keep the company true to its roots, I think it’s Schlafly.