Japan's Sapporo Breweries Ltd. plans to keep open all of Sleeman Breweries Ltd.'s operations and will retain John Sleeman as head of the company as part of a $306-million takeover offer unveiled last week. "John Sleeman appears to have a job for the future and as long as Sapporo wants me, I'll be here," said Mr. Sleeman, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, on a conference call yesterday. Mr. Sleeman, who founded the Guelph, Ont., beer maker in 1988, added: "I expect to be here for quite some time." Sapporo is offering $17.50 a share for Canada's third-largest brewer and has won the support of the company's board as well as Mr. Sleeman, who has committed to tendering his approximately 4.5-per-cent ownership stake to the all-cash bid.Cash is good and 4.5% x 300 million is a pretty good return for a guy who built up the brewery from a dream he had when he ran his bar. In that respect this is a success story. But listening to one of the interviews and reports on the transaction, it is a little sad to note that no one is recognizing that there were a few factors that created the strain forcing the sale. The only one cited is the buck-a-beer discount phenomena. No one is discussing the move into the US which has not apparently gone well as Sleeman is placing its product next to quality micros and coming up short. No one is mentioning the challenge of buying up any number of larger micros across Canada and whether that project played out well. And no one is asking whether what is in the bottle is the issue. The way Sleeman is talked about you would think you were dealing with innovators like Dogfish Head or masters of quality like Brooklyn Brewery or even a micro brewery.
In any event, it will be interesting to watch Sapporo to see what improvements or changes it can bring to the situation. It is good to see that the plan appears to be keeping the workforce in place and building upon what has been achieved to date.