BrewDog’s beleaguered CEO James Watt has apologized to anyone he made feel uncomfortable after claims about “inappropriate” behavior emerged in a BBC documentary.
The defiant boss’s apology was detailed and unflinching – and he promised to change his ways, despite claiming the accusations against him are false.
A statement posted on the BrewDog online forum denied the main criticisms leveled by former staff on the Disclosure programme.
He said: “Yesterday I was accused of inappropriate behavior by the BBC.
“Of all the false claims made in the programme, this was of course the most upsetting and damaging.
“Firstly, I sometimes date when I am in America and I fully accept I have taken friends, colleagues and yes, dates, on tours of the brewery. I do not consider this inappropriate.
“Secondly, and more importantly, I hugely regret anyone feeling in any way uncomfortable around me, as the program set out.
“This is absolutely the last thing I want and something I will learn from immediately. I truly apologize to anyone who felt this way. This was never my intention.”
Watt added: “I want BrewDog to be an amazing place to work, where we celebrate each others’ success, work as a team, and sell great beer – that is the whole point, so where I am responsible for our people not being comfortable around me, then it’s clearly me that needs to change, and I will.
“I am trying to be a better leader, and to be far more mindful of the impact I have on our team when I am on site.”
BrewDog faced a backlash following the broadcast of the documentary on Monday.
Mr Watt was accused by several staff members of behaving “inappropriately” in the programme, which also questioned some allegedly shady business practices.
After the Disclosure program ran, the Ascension Cider brand, based in Sussex, announced that it would be pulling stocks from BrewDog pubs.
The BBC program followed up on similar claims that reflected an allegedly toxic culture at the “punk” firm, which has used controversy to boost publicity and has boosted its coffers through share offers to loyal customers, many of whom now feel exploited.
And it claimed that BrewDog made false customs declarations when exporting beer to the USA. The company admitted “cutting corners”.
On Twitter, @AscensionCider posted: “We have respectfully asked that our cider immediately cease being sold to Hawkes taproom, or any Brewdog owned bars.
“Our love goes out to the teams, and the members of the company who are in no way part of this culture, but JW will never profit from our products again.”
The BBC Scotland program also shed light on how James Watt bought £500,000 of Heineken shares – despite consistently slamming the “big beer” company for its product.
Other allegations to be aired included details of a grant bid to the Scottish Government for a tree planting scheme.
When announcing the carbon-reducing scheme, Brewdog made no reference to using government money to fund the initiative and customers believed their trade was actively funding the green initiative.
The BBC featured interviews with US staff who claimed James Watt took drunk female customers on late night tours of a brewery.
One punter tweeted: “Love how #BrewDog’s strategy is to make fun of leading beer companies & that their consumers are just sheep to their products, yet BrewDog themselves have built an entire empire off of fake marketing tactics, happily take thousands off their investors and sell really average beer.”
The BBC allegations followed a damaging raft of complaints compiled by the Punks With Purpose group.
The group’s mission is: “to tackle toxic workplace culture head-on, by promoting positive action.”
In June last year an open letter on behalf of over 100 former BrewDog staff members led to BrewDog promising to improve.
After the BBC show aired, James Watt pledged to take legal action in a tweet.
The tweet, which blocked off replies, states: “The BBC published claims which are totally false & they published them despite the extensive evidence we provided to demonstrate that they were false.
“Reluctantly, I am now forced to take legal action against the BBC to protect my reputation.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.