Good Beer Hunting

Sightlines — [breaking] Executive Shake-ups Continue at the Top of Craft - Multiple Ballast Point Leaders Depart

According to sources familiar with the matter, three major executives of the Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits Company in San Diego, California have announced that they’re leaving the company this week. CEO Jim Buechler, who has been with the company since 2011 and managed the transition to Constellation Brands, announced his plans to leave the company today. Following suit was Chief Commercial Officer, Earl Kight, who joined the company in 2008 as VP of Sales and Marketing, and General Counsel Julie Buechler. All are stepping down only eight months after the company was acquired by Constellation Brands, makers of Corona and Modelo, and a large portfolio of wine and spirits headquartered in Chicago. Marty Burkel will assume the role of President at Ballast Point. 

There’s been a lot of movement in top positions at craft breweries lately, with an influx of executives from larger international beer and spirits companies taking leading roles in craft breweries. These changes at Ballast Point hint at a tumultuous future for larger craft brands as they work to transition to highly competitive sectors of an international drinks market while executive leadership becomes scarce. 

Talent retention at the brewing level has been challenging for years now as the barrier to entry for start-ups has remained low. But these new moves suggest that retention at the top levels of these organizations may be difficult too, as they compete with an increasingly diverse set of national and international brands. Some executives will likely see opportunity for equity stakes in smaller brands and start-ups that may offer roles more in line with their personal interests. 

Clarity of vision, financial reward, momentum in the market—these are just a few things that retain top talent. Those organizations that are striving to compete at the highest levels are perhaps in the weakest positions to deliver on those aspects as the businesses predictably become reactive instead of proactive in the market—turning roles that were once grassroots and dynamic into roles that are more managerial in nature, with increasingly high-pressure demands.

Meanwhile, those with a proven track record of success, like Ballast Point executives? Well, they're in a prime position to entertain new options. 

— Michael Kiser