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Stone & Wood sold to Lion for undisclosed sum

Stone & Wood’s parent company Fermentum has been sold outright to Kirin-owned Lion for an undisclosed sum. In a statement today, Lion did say the shock deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, would involve them building the new Stone & Wood brewery in Murwillumbah and donate $5 million to Fermentum’s not-for-profit charity inGrained Foundation.

Fermentum’s co-founder and chairman Jamie Cook said the combination of timing and finding the right custodian to take the business forward made this the natural next step for the company that also owns the recently acquired Two Birds Brewing and the likes of Fixation and Sunly Seltzer.

“After an extensive strategic review exploring options to set us up for future growth, we decided to test the waters on whether now was the right time for the founding families to find a custodian to grow Fermentum’s legacy, its people, its culture and its brands, and continue to drive the business forward whilst staying true to its purpose,” Jamie said, who along with Brad Rogers and Ross Jurisich founded the groundbreaking Stone & Wood brewing company back in 2008. You can read a full statement from Jamie, Brad and Ross below.

“We only looked for a custodian who would be committed to building the brewery and to support our work in the community,” Jamie said. “Not only did Lion welcome these ideas with enthusiasm, they demonstrated they have similar values and a focus on Environmental and Social Governance aligned to our ‘Force for Good’ approach.

“Lion’s custodianship of Little Creatures, Four Pillars and New Belgium demonstrates they in fact learn from new businesses, and grow their impact and reach.”

Lion did previously own a 20 per cent share of Stone & Wood, but following the Kirin-owned company’s takeover of Little World Beverages (LWB), brewer of Little Creatures, the Northern Rivers brewery brought back the share in late 2012. At the time of the buy-back, Stone & Wood’s founders said in a statement: “Whilst we believe Lion has displayed a thorough understanding of the craft beer market, and are currently better placed to participate in it than any other large brewer in the world, we feel we have made the right decision for our business”.

Lion Australia managing director James Brindley said: “We have huge respect for what Jamie Cook, Brad Rogers, Ross Jurisich and the team have created; great beer, wonderful brands, spiritual homes in their breweries and tap rooms, an inclusive culture and a commitment to the community.

“We want to grow what they’ve started, giving their people and beers even more reach across the country.

“We have a shared vision of ‘Brewing as a Force for Good’. Lion is Australia’s first large-scale carbon neutral brewer and we will be backing the Stone & Wood, Two Birds and Fixation breweries to go carbon neutral as well. There are lot of areas where we can learn from each other.

“The Fermentum business will continue to be a unique player in the drinks industry and we are excited about the opportunities for growth ahead.”

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A joint statement from Brad Rogers, Ross Jurisich and Jamie Cook (pictured in that order above)

Today we have some news to share … with a pounding heart and a lump in our throat, the founding families have decided to hand the custodianship of Fermentum (and its family of businesses – including Stone & Wood) over to Lion.

As a founder of a business, at some point down the road you will have to hand it over to someone else. Earlier this year, we realised that we were approaching a major milestone in the development of Stone & Wood where we knew it was time to build a new brewery.

After many months of working through how we were going to begin the next chapter in our story the founding families decided it might be time to see if there was a custodian for the business who could grow the legacy, its people, its culture, its brands, and continue to drive the business whilst staying true to its purpose.

We also looked for a custodian who would be committed to building the brewery, employment of the team, use of local suppliers, to support our work in the community and importantly a focus on beer quality to match our own. Not only did Lion welcome these ideas with enthusiasm, they demonstrated they had similar values and a focus on environmental and social governance aligned to our approach to using Beer as a Force for Good.

The team (by way of their ownership) is getting a good reward for the value they have created and Lion have committed to their on-going employment. The community is benefiting from the on-going role of the inGrained Foundation and the large boost to its funding through a $5 million donation; a $1 million donation to Big Scrub Landcare that will contribute to the regeneration of the lost rainforest and the new brewery, which will be a large investment in the local economy, supporting construction jobs and on-going jobs in the region.

It is a day that is filled with so many mixed emotions – excitement, sadness, anxiety, and pride to name a few, and we know that whilst some people will be happy for us, and some will have a sense of loss, we take great comfort in knowing that we are handing the business over to a custodian that will maintain the Stone & Wood truth that – Good Beer is Our Thing

Cheers,
Jamie, Brad & Ross

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