BrewDog appoints former Asda boss in wake of 'toxic' culture claims

BrewDog, the maverick Aberdeenshire beer-maker that was recently accused of a “toxic” company environment, has appointed one of the UK’s most respected business leaders as its chairman.

Former Asda boss Allan Leighton is joining the board of the Ellon-based brewer as Independent non-executive chairman with immediate effect.

In addition to his role as chairman, Leighton will act as mentor to BrewDog chief executive James Watt, providing “experienced counsel on leadership and governance matters” as the firm enters its next phase of growth, in particular expanding its international footprint.

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In June, Watt - one of the brewer’s two founders - apologised after an open letter from former employees emerged accusing the company environment of being “toxic” and detrimental to their mental health.

Allan Leighton’s positions have included chief executive of Asda and Pandora, and non-executive chairman of the Co-operative Group, Royal Mail, Entertainment One, Element Materials Technology Group and Wagamama.

The letter came from 61 former employees - and at least 45 other people who wished to remain anonymous as they “did not feel safe” - and accused the company of instilling fear, saying that being treated like a human being at the company was "sadly not a given".

Watt said at the time: “At BrewDog we are focused on building the best business we can, which is why the open letter we saw on Twitter was so upsetting, but so important.

"Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, act and learn.”

Leighton replaces Blythe Jack, who was appointed chair earlier this year and a BrewDog director since 2017. As part of her role, Jack was tasked with overseeing the recruitment process for a fully independent chairman. She will remain on the board as deputy chair and will also continue to oversee the previously announced culture review.

Leighton’s positions have included chief executive of Asda and Pandora, and non-executive chairman of the Co-operative Group, Royal Mail, Entertainment One, Element Materials Technology Group and Wagamama.

He said: “BrewDog has built an incredible market position and brand in a short space of time. It continues to grow quickly all over the world, has a fantastic team of people, and an outstanding sustainability story to tell.

“I look forward to playing my role in ensuring the company has the right governance in place to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.”

Watt said: “[Leighton] brings immense experience and a phenomenal track record to BrewDog. I have no doubt we will all benefit from his insight and leadership.

“As we continue to build our business and implement a range of initiatives to become the best business we can be, Allan’s mentorship and personal guidance will be invaluable.

“I would like to thank Blythe for her continued support. Her advice has been hugely appreciated and I am so pleased she will continue to sit on the board.”

Jack added: “This is an exciting time for the business as we build on the momentum from recent success to reach our full potential. We are thrilled that someone of Allan’s calibre has agreed to lead the business through its next phase of growth.”

BrewDog, which recently launched a joint venture in Japan, also confirmed that 99 of its 104 bars and hotels around the world are now open and operating in accordance with relevant Covid guidelines.

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