Another story where culture clash and the company buying the business does not understand the process. How that would happen, I am not sure. However, this is a clash of cultures and a misunderstanding of the company’s capabilities.
Anchor Brewing and Its Workers
Anchor Brewing is on its last kegs, sorry its last legs. and just a few months ago. But its staff, unable to let go, started drafting a plan to rescue the beermaker-in-distress. Now, the 127-year-old brewery’s six-year-old union is more than halfway to raising enough money to buy it out.
The few dozen employees in the union can’t afford to buy Anchor Brewing out of pocket, but an outpouring of community support will likely do the trick. A GoFundMe campaign to buy the brewery, launched by the Anchor union on Monday (Sep. 4), has already raised almost 80% of its $50,000 goal in less than two days.
The Bay Area brewery, which got its start in 1896, has survived two World Wars and a handful of owners, but it has been struggling to survive its latest parent company.
The Japanese beer brand Sapporo took over in 2017 and has run Anchor and its ambitions into the ground, according to employees and industry watchers. Anchor’s union has publicly blamed mismanagement by Sapporo for the brewery’s bankruptcy filing.
The $50,000 fundraiser seems too small considering the brewery and the property under it alone are likely worth millions (news outlet SFist). Of course, there’s nothing stopping the campaign from exceeding that threshold. And then there are other potential sources of funding. A San Jose brewery, Fox Tale Fermentation Project, has already released a Solidarity Ale, whose proceeds will go to support the Anchor employees’ bid. Other local brewpubs may step up too.
We decided the most qualified people to save Anchor were the people who produce it . . . Workers have formed a co-op with the intention of purchasing and running the business collectively and carrying on the Anchor’s legacy. We are working with organizations who specialize in worker ownership and are guiding us through this process. We need the community’s help to cover our costs as we explore the possibilities of worker ownership.”
The Anchor Brewing union’s GoFundMe appeal
The Anchor Brewing union closed in on its $50,000 GoFundMe goal, qz.com, Ananya Bhattacharya
The Rhode Island brewery, Narragansett Beer, on 14 July, started a petition on change.org, calling on beer drinkers and Anchor enthusiasts to show their support for the historic company.
The Anchor workers’ union, for its part, expressed an interest in buying the brewery. It is unclear to what extent the former workers, roughly 40 of them, have secured financing to make the purchase. Anchor’s owner, Japan’s Sapporo, designated a liquidator who will choose a buyer, media reported.
Media said that Anchor’s brewery and taproom could be valued at USD 85 million – which is what Sapporo paid for Anchor in 2017.
From high hopes to the end of the road
When Sapporo bought Anchor, it promised to preserve its “rich legacy and tradition and invest in its bright future.” Two years ago, it celebrated Anchor’s 125th anniversary and rolled out new products, a new look, and logo. But a few weeks ago, Sapporo said it is dropping Anchor and shutting down the business (with only 61 employees, about half of what it had just a few years ago) after efforts to sell it had failed.
Sapporo blamed the macroeconomic environment for Anchor’s massive drop in sales. Media said that Anchor generated a USD 12 million operating loss in 2020, followed by a USD 9 million loss in 2021 and 2022 respectively. In a written statement, Sapporo said it is taking a hit of JPY 6 billion (USD 43 million) related to the shutdown.
How Sapporo sank Anchor
Dave Infante on the website vinepair.com, tells a different story. According to his sources, Sapporo bought Anchor in order to also brew Sapporo beer there. It was a bizarre plan as Anchor’s existing kit for brewing ales (eg open fermenters) and capacity were not suitable to this.
Former employees complained to Mr Infante of Sapporo efforts ran Anchor into the ground. Executives postponed necessary plant maintenance, fought workers’ successful union drive in 2019, and demonstrated an “extremely novice” grasp of Anchor’s brewing cycle.
Besides, new and costly automated equipment did not work. Worse still, the commissioning process for a new bottling line dragged out over half a year, and when it was finally installed it “ripped bolts out of the concrete because it wasn’t installed correctly,” an ex-employee said. Because of these glitches Anchor went from 500 barrels a day in beer output to just around 200 barrels by the time he left.
Sapporo’s purchase of Stone sped up Anchor’s demise
With morale flagging, staff turnover at the brewery increased dramatically. The production team’s replacement rate was to 60 percent between 2021 and 2022, according to Anchor’s union. White collar employees left in droves. When Anchor announced in June that it was pulling out of national distribution to focus on its core market in California, the strategic shift had some merit. But it had to happen regardless, Mr. Infante argued, because the brewery’s entire national sales staff had been laid off by then.
If the rebranding of Anchor in 2021 was Sapporo’s most unpopular decision – plenty of consumers were outraged -, its most fateful one may have been its acquisition of San Diego’s Stone brewing company in June 2022 for USD 164 million.
“Sapporo had a brand new toy with Stone. They have more up-to-date facilities. They can produce Sapporo, we couldn’t,”
One worker had told Mr Infante.
Union not being given a fair shot at purchasing Anchor
Commenting on the union’s plan to purchase Anchor and run it as a worker-owned cooperative, Sapporo USA spokesperson Sam Singer said in a statement on 23 July.
“Given our deep respect for the Anchor Union and our team members, should our employees put forward a bona-fide, legally binding offer to buy the company, one that includes a verifiable source of funds, we would gladly consider it.”
However, Sapporo is not giving the union enough time to secure financing. It is not getting a fair chance to bid for company, union representatives complained on 28 July. The liquidation of Anchor’s assets is to kick off in early August.
Sudden closure of Anchor brewery: employees blame Sapporo, brauwelt.com, Ina Verstl.
On September 6th it was reported by Forbes Anchor Brewing Employees Start GoFundMe To Buy Closed Brewery, forbes.com, Don Tse, Former employees of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing have formed a cooperative and launched a GoFundMe campaign in an attempt to buy the brewery.
Working with Project Equity, an organization that assists with and promotes employee ownership, members of the union of brewery and taproom employees of Anchor Brewing (International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 6, San Francisco, California) have coordinated with former managers and past employees and made it known that they are serious about acquiring the brewery.
The employee group has not been granted access to the data room. Without that, and without transparency in the sale and bidding process, the group’s acquisition plans are in flux. But from their own knowledge of the brewery and by working with former employees that worked at Anchor when it was in its heyday, the employee group has developed a business plan and feel that they are in a realistic position to buy the brewery.
The effort is still a ways off for success.