BrewDog’s James Watt Stepping Down as CEO

BrewDog’s James Watt Stepping Down as CEO

BrewDog CEO James Watt. Photo Courtesy of: BrewDog

BrewDog’s James Watt Stepping Down as CEO

The embattled BrewDog CEO and co-founder James Watt is stepping down from the helm of the brewery he started in a garage after 17 years leading the UK business. After numerous tumultuous years, the CEO of BrewDog – James Watt, is officially stepping down as CEO of the company he co-founded and created.

James Arrow will be stepping up and replacing James Watt. He took over the COO position in September of 2023.

I have decided to transition into a new role in the business, one of ‘captain and co-founder’ – and James Arrow will pick up the reins as CEO as our business pushes forward into our next phase of growth. In my new role, I will remain as a board member, a director and I will also be part-time strategic advisor to the business and to our leadership team.

-soon to be former CEO James Watt

Arrow joined BrewDog from Boots Opticians, where he was managing director. He joined BrewDog in September as COO.

James Watt spoke to me last year about continuing to play a role with the business while freeing up time to concentrate on his other projects and interests. We subsequently put in place a succession plan by recruiting James Arrow as COO and strengthening the wider senior leadership team.

-BrewDog chair Allan Leighton

The latest figures from Companies House show that BrewDog, a major UK beer brand and pub operator, reported revenues of £321.2 million ($401 million) in 2022, an increase from £285.6 million the previous year. However, the company incurred a loss of £24.8 million, a significant rise from the £10.6 million loss in 2021.

Under the leadership of CEO Watt, BrewDog has expanded internationally, exporting to 60 markets and establishing retail locations across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia.

Despite its expansion, BrewDog has faced challenges, particularly in 2021 when it was criticized for fostering a “toxic” work environment. An open letter from a group named ‘Punks With Purpose,’ signed by 76 ex-employees, criticized the company culture as a “cult of personality” centered around Watt and co-founder Martin Dickie.

The letter highlighted widespread concerns across various departments, stating: “It doesn’t matter which part of the business we worked in; production, bartending, sales, operations, packaging, quality, marketing or HR, we all felt that in our day-to-day working lives, there were at best hurdles and, at worst, genuine safety concerns. In the wake of your success are people left burnt out, afraid and miserable. The true culture of BrewDog is, and seemingly always has been, fear.”

In response to these allegations, Watt expressed his distress and acknowledged the importance of the feedback, stating that BrewDog was apologetic, would not challenge the claims but would “listen, learn and act” to address the issues raised.

In January, it emerged the company was to stop paying some of its hospitality staff the UK’s so-called real living wage to tackle increased costs of company overhead. Watt had been overheard saying things like “we shouldn’t be relied on to let people make a living wage, that should be on them”, as well as several other comments indicating he didn’t feel like his workers should be able to fully live off what they make being employed by BrewDog.

In July of 2023 they had announced that they were wanting to set up a huge hospitality expansion, with up towards 300 bars, hotels, and other franchises worldwide, concluding them all by 2030. This would include locations in the UK, Netherlands, India, Thailand, Australia, Italy, and the United States.

Internal Memo

Dear Equity Punk,

You may have seen the big news. Seventeen years after he co-founded the business, James Watt has decided to step down as chief executive of BrewDog.

He will stay on the BrewDog PLC board in the role of ‘captain & co-founder’ and remains a major shareholder. I am honoured to have been asked by Allan Leighton, our chair, and the Board to step into the role of chief executive. Please find below the company announcement which gives more detail and context.

I am looking forward to building on James’s and Martin’s achievements and leading this business through the next phase of its development.

I hope to meet as many of you as possible at the AGM next month, where I’ll share more about my vision and the journey ahead.


8 May 10.00, Ellon: BrewDog has today announced that James Arrow, currently COO, will succeed James Watt as CEO of the company, as part of a succession plan put in place last year.

Seventeen years after he co-founded the business, James Watt has decided to step down as chief executive. He will stay on the BrewDog PLC board in the role of ‘captain & co-founder’ and remains a major shareholder.

Allan Leighton, BrewDog chair, said: “James Watt spoke to me last year about continuing to play a role with the business while freeing up time to concentrate on his other projects and interests. We subsequently put in place a succession plan by recruiting James Arrow as COO and strengthening the wider senior leadership team.”

James Arrow joined BrewDog from Boots Opticians, where he was managing director, in September 2023. Prior to that he spent a decade at Dixons Carphone in a variety of senior roles including e-commerce, trading, operations, sales and transformation.

“James Arrow is a proven leader,” said Allan Leighton. “His eight months as COO have given him a great insight into the business. The Board is delighted to have him as CEO, to lead the Company into its next phase of growth.” Allan Leighton continued: “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. I am especially pleased he will continue to offer his insight, creative genius and energy to the Board. We all wish him every success in his new ventures and in his NED role on the Board.”

James Arrow said: “James and Martin have created a fantastic business. I am looking forward to building on their achievements and leading this business through the next phase of its development.”

James Watt said: “I want to thank all the incredible people who have helped Martin and me create this unique business. I have loved co-founding this amazing business and leading it for the last 17 years. I am excited to take a bit of time off, to travel, to spend more time with my family and friends. I am also looking forward to being able to dedicate some more time to my other business interests.’

For more information contact

See Previous Article on Closure of BrewDog Pittsburgh

BrewDog Controversies

BrewDog is certainly not new to controversies, most of which have been well catalogued. From the recent Reddit post discussing the BrewDog Pittsburgh closure, you can even find a listing of some of their recent scandals:

Some examples:

BrewDog Pittsburgh is Closed Closed (/r/Beer)

From that same Reddit page, it also seems that BrewDog Pittsburgh employees were given no notice of the closure until heads up. A Twitter thread follows it here: It appears they also gave their employees no notice whatsoever, in typical BrewDog fashion.

BrewDog vs. Guinness

BrewDog marketing has been actively attempting to ‘sway’ drinkers away from Guinness using social media, ads, and other forms and attempts. Social media ads were designated to discourage drinkers from Guinness through means of discounts, and offering free beer if they didn’t drink Guinness. Their social media posts showed their workers and friends drinking BrewDog in front of Guinness locations and showing their displeasure for Guinness. They started the ad campaign around February of 2023.

This all comes on the heels of weeks after weeks of social media posts and advertisements of BrewDog branding all but calling out Guinness Brewing. With posts showing them drinking their own beer – Black Heart Stout – in front of Guinness locations and stating how much better theirs is. This ‘advertisement tactic’ has drawn much ire in the online community and there was much blow back on social media pages.

BrewDog Pittsburgh Has Closed (March, 2023)

Brewery News

Interested in finding out about many other brewery openings, new locations, closings, movings, and in general brewery news? You can check out our links below:

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