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James Watt to step down from CEO of BrewDog after serving for 17 years

After co-founding the business, James Watt is set to step down as chief executive of BrewDog, marking a significant transition after 17 years.

In a detailed post on LinkedIn, Watt expressed that his tenure leading the craft brewery had been 'the best adventure I could ever have wished for'.

He will be passing the reins to James Arrow, who assumed the role of chief operating officer at BrewDog last summer, following his tenure as managing director at Boots Opticians.

Watt will transition into the new position of 'captain and co-founder,' retaining his presence as a board member, director, and offering part-time strategic guidance to the business. Additionally, he plans to uphold his commitment of allocating 20% of his BrewDog shares to team members.

BrewDog chairman Allan Leighton disclosed that Watt expressed his intention to step back from the business last year. This prompted the company to initiate a succession plan and recruit Arrow for the role.

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 2530 people across its head office, four breweries and over 120 bars.'

Although Watt has steered BrewDog's expansion into a global craft beer enterprise, his leadership has encountered controversy in recent years.

During 2021, over 100 former employees signed an open letter citing a 'culture of fear' within the business. Subsequently, Watt issued an apology and affirmed the company's dedication to improvement.

However, in 2022, a BBC documentary titled 'Disclosure: The Truth about BrewDog' alleged additional inappropriate behavior by Watt, allegations he has since refuted.

BrewDog has frequently found itself at odds with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) due to its attention-grabbing campaigns. In recent years, an advertisement asserting it was 'the world's first carbon-negative brewery' was prohibited by the ASA. Additionally, in 2022, the watchdog determined that a BrewDog marketing email implying its fruit beers counted as 'one of your five a day' could potentially mislead customers.

Writing on LinkedIn, Watt said: 'During my time at the helm of BrewDog, there have been highs and lows, up 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.

'Gratitude to have been able to build the world's leading craft beer brand, from scratch. Gratitude to have been able to work with such amazing people all over our business including our fantastic community. I am eternally thankful for all the brilliant beers, all the standout batches of Jack Hammer and all the wild adventures we have been on as a team.

'I am also grateful for the tough times too, for the learnings they provided, the resolve they instilled and the perspective they offered.'

Prior to his roles at BrewDog and Boots, Arrow amassed a decade of experience at Dixons Carphone, where he held various senior positions encompassing e-commerce, trading, operations, sales, and transformation.