Quirky, but successful, Stone Brewery co-founder Greg Koch kicked himself upstairs this week to a higher calling. After serving as Stone’s CEO since its 1996 founding, Koch named himself executive chairman doing pretty much what he has been doing for a while, long-term strategy and planning.
Koch even announced the beginning of the search for a a new him, the new CEO. “This is not a rushed thing,” he said. “This isn’t about a timeline. This is about the end result.”
Produced at the iconic Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens on Citracado Parkway, Koch’s video announcement began with a folksy manner that prompted responses from YouTube commenters like Barth Samp who said, “too high and hippy to run a corporation,” or BanditO’s “Greg promoted himself to Craft Beer Chairman, man…Shout out to the Chairman of Craft Beer!”
For his part, Koch did a professional standup saying he felt he did a good job and somebody else might do even better as he focused on other Stone projects. With more than a bit of reality TV show-type staging, Craig Spitz, Stone;s chief financial officer, interrupted to add his new foam.
While it wasn’t quite Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now,” it was, as you can see from the video posted above, interesting. The show concluded with Stone’s other chief executives toasting and drinking beer before getting back to — as Maynard G. Krebs once said in faux horror on “Dobie Gillis,” for 1950s sitcom fans — work. Work!
Stone Brewery doesn’t ‘sell out’
Koch denied speculation that this was a move intended to clear the way for a sale of the nation’s ninth-largest craft brewer with more than 1,100 employees and $137 million in annual revenue. The company prized for its hop-intense ales like Ruination and the “Enjoy By” labeling encouraging beer drinkers to consume for maximum freshness is not for sale, Koch said; end of story.
“Stone Brewing will never sell out,” Koch said to Fortune magazine. “Stone Brewing is sacrosanct. Were not interested in participating in a cash grab.There are two ways of operating a business — commodity or artisan. We operate as artisan. We make decisions based on our passions.”
Good news for local beer lovers, especially given a disturbing week in the world of craft brewing..
Lagunitas, another top Southern California craft brewer, last week said it had sold a 50 percent stake to German powerhouse Heineken looking to boost distribution. Saint Archer Brewing was sold to MillerCoors as the 10th member of its craft division. Virtue Cider sold a majority share to Island Beer Co, in turn owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Koch was optimistic about the changing of the guard. “This is a natural progression once companies reach our size and complexity,” he said. “I see this as an opportunity to focus on future direction and projects for Stone Brewing. Most importantly, we are looking for someone who can contribute to our executive team and understands our vision for craft beer.”
Ever the out-of-the-boxer, while most companies issue news releases detailing company moves, Koch went one multimedia step further in announcing his new job. It led the page with this: “Today, San Diego-based Stone Brewing Co. is pleased to announce that co-founder Greg Koch will be promoted (with the blessing from his business partner, of course) from CEO and transition into a new role as Executive Chairman.”
Koch has appeared before in videos on Stone Brewery’s YouTube Channel. A slew of videos posted over the years detailing his rise along with that of the yeast at the iconic Escondido craft beer company that practically invented the craft brew niche when founded by Koch and fellow founder Steve Wagner.
No rest for the Arrogant Bastard Ale purveyors though, as Koch said he planned to concentrate on ambitious company plans to build the first American craft brewery in Europe, a Berlin bistro and gardens and a gigantic new Richmond, Va. operation.