Controversial BrewDog boss James Watt quits top role but will remain ‘captain’ of beer company

James Watt will take on the newly created non-executive role of ‘captain and co-founder’ and retain his 21% shareholding

Holly Williams
Wednesday 08 May 2024 15:01 BST
Comments
James Watt (right) with fellow BrewDog founder Martin Dickie (left) and billionaire investor Keith Greggor
James Watt (right) with fellow BrewDog founder Martin Dickie (left) and billionaire investor Keith Greggor (Rex)

Controversial beer boss James Watt is stepping down from the top job at BrewDog 17 years after he co-founded the Scottish brewer.

Mr Watt will hand over the reins to chief operating officer James Arrow but will remain with the group as a non-executive director on the board and continue to advise the group on strategy.

Mr Watt will take on the newly created non-executive role of “captain and co-founder” and retain his 21 per cent shareholding in the firm.

The group said it had put in place succession plans after Mr Watt first told the board last year he wanted to step away to focus on his other projects and interests.

In a LinkedIn post, Mr Watt said: “After 17 fantastic years as chief executive, I have decided to transition into a new role in the business, one of ‘captain and co-Founder’ – and James Arrow will pick up the reins as chief executive 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 adviser to the business and our to leadership team.”

BrewDog chairman Allan Leighton said: “James Watt, alongside Martin Dickie, created this great business from a garage in Fraserburgh.

“Few have accomplished what he has.

“From very humble beginnings under his leadership, BrewDog has grown to become the world’s leading craft brewer, employing 2,530 people across its head office, four breweries and over 120 bars.

“I am especially pleased he will continue to offer his insight, creative genius and energy to the board.”

James Watt co-founded the Scottish brewer and pub group in 2007
James Watt co-founded the Scottish brewer and pub group in 2007 (BrewDog/PA)

But Mr Watt’s tenure has been marred by controversy in recent years. In an open letter in 2021, former workers accused the firm of having a “culture of fear” within the business, with “toxic attitudes” towards junior staff.

Mr Watt apologised to staff and has since insisted the group has made changes after the letter was published.

In January, the company faced a backlash after revealing it would no longer hire new staff on the “real” living wage, instead paying the lower legal minimum wage.

Mr Watt said on announcing his departure from the top job: “During my time at the helm of BrewDog, there have been highs and lows, ups 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.”

He said he was “grateful for the tough times too, for the learnings they provided, the resolve they instilled and the perspective they offered”.

He said he plans to “take a bit of time off, to travel, to spend more time with my family and friends.

“I am also looking forward to being able to dedicate some more time to my other business interests.”

Mr Arrow, who was hired as chief operating officer last September as part of succession planning for the top role, was previously managing director of Boots Opticians.

Before this, he spent a decade at Dixons Carphone, where he held senior roles across e-commerce, trading, operations, sales and transformation.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in