Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head has sold a minority stake of it’s brewery to a private equity firm out of New York. Calagione sold a 15% stake in his company to the LNK private equity firm, following suit with other breweries who have gone the private equity route, such as Full Sail Brewing out of Oregon.
Why does this matter? Mainly it is an interesting turn of opinion, or so it would seem. Sam Calagione has been very vocal about his displeasure with the craft beer community selling stakes. Though he was mainly referring to breweries that have sold to Big Beer. Breweries like Dogfish seem to be selling near the apex of their success. Perhaps they see a ceiling to what they can do and the need for capital to help them push to the next level, to increase distribution and production.
Calagione always seemed interested in keeping DFH a family owned business. By going with a private equity firm, with a minority stake, the company has gained financial guidance while retaining it’s independence.
This is another in a long line of recent sales in craft beer as well as a changing of the guard in craft beer leadership. To boot, just this morning, it was announced the head of Green Flash was stepping down.
Beer Business Daily.com lays out the details of the deal.
Yesterday Dogfish chief Sam Calagione shared the following news with employees. They’ll give New York-based LNK “a modest 15% ownership position.” One more for the private equity succession plan camp.
“Today, I am excited to announce that Mariah and I added a new asset as external support to Dogfish Head – LNK Partners,” he wrote. “You are likely thinking, who or what is that? Well, they are an incredibly smart and experienced group of people who have worked with companies of all sizes and styles like Levi’s, Performance Bicycle, Gatorade and Calvin Klein[and Panera] to help those guys achieve their goals in their respective industries. LNK is making an investment to own 15% percent of our company.” As we reported via large news outlets earlier this year, Dogfish has “accepted a number of meetings over many years in order to better understand the plays that other craft breweries could or would be making.
“But while these conversations happened, our talks have always been prefaced by our steadfast desire to remain a family-controlled and family-led company. We remained firm in that position no matter who was sitting at the other side of the table pitching us their deal and we still do today. We went into our introductory meeting with LNK as if it would be our only, but rather found that the result was a robust and thoughtful dialogue about Dogfish’s solid and unique position in the craft beer industry. We walked out of the meeting thinking perhaps we should rethink those original assumptions. …”
“THREE DEAL BREAKERS”: “During the process of getting to know each other, the value in partnering with LNK became clearer, for while we have been approaching our world through the lens of craft, they could bring different exposures and experiences to help adjust that focus,” Sam wrote. “In so doing they could provide the food for thought we had yet to sample. As the possibility of a partnership continued to crystallize for us, all that remained was their agreement around our three deal-breakers. 1.)acceptance that this would not be a path toward IPO, majority ownership or any other position that would be counter to our commitment to remain a family-controlled and family-led company, 2.) alignment in holding holy to our off-centered culture as an ideal to be treasured, and 3.) acceptance that we will always choose smart growth over fast growth. End of story. Not only did LNK get on board with our priorities, but they respected them; they were energized around them.”
Bottom line, this means that at the “Dogfish Board of Directors level there will be one representative joining who will bring some diversity of thought and experience to that group. Additionally, they will be acting as thought partners for Mariah, Nick and I to challenge us, provide sounding board and offer other best practice advice. We contemplated whether filling our voids could be just as easily achieved through the work of a rock solid consultant but in the end Mariah and I agreed that allowing LNK to take a modest 15% ownership position would provide the skin in the game that would align us to winning.”
David Landau, Managing Partner at LNK, said Dogfish is a “rare combination of a great management team and a great brand.”