Employees to own beer company

Wetzel makes shares pledge to West Brewery workers

Petra Wetzel

Petra Wetzel: ‘I didn’t set out to get rich’


Employees of a craft brewery will be guaranteed a windfall worth thousands of pounds after founder Petra Wetzel decided they should share in its success.

West Brewery in Glasgow will become the first brewer in the UK to be employee-owned after Ms Wetzel set up a Share Incentive Plan (SIP) and placed an initial 10% of the company’s shares into a dedicated trust for Westies, as the employees are known.

As of last month, those who have worked with the business for 12 consecutive months, no matter how many hours, will receive £3,600 worth of shares – the maximum sum that can be given tax-free to employees – every year. About 65 employees are currently eligible for shares.

Ms Wetzel said: “West is now worth many millions and I’ve always considered this business to be a team effort rather than me acting as some kind of benevolent dictator.

“I didn’t set out to get rich running a brewery. I’m 44 years old and, rather than selling up to retire and sit on a beach for the rest of my days, I want to share what we’ve achieved over the last 13 years with the people who have helped make it possible. So everybody who has worked at West for longer than a year will receive shares in the business, which will be held in trust and vest after five years.

“This is about leaving a legacy for the city of Glasgow because if I’d sold the business to a larger entity, I’d have no control over what would happen to West going forward.

“So this is all about ensuring that everybody who works at West benefits financially. It’s not about making me rich; it’s about sharing the benefits with everybody who works hard at West on a regular, annual basis.”

Bavaria-born Ms Wetzel says she has long-considered an employee-owned structure but credits her recent meeting with employee ownership expert Andrew Harrison for finally bringing her plans to fruition. And she acknowledges support from The Scottish Government, which contributed to the funding of the professional advisory fees involved in establishing the employee ownership structure.

Mr Harrison, partner at Co-Ownership Solutions, added: “I’m excited to be working with Petra and West, the first brewery in the UK to become employee-owned. In a market where many brewery founders are selling out to the big boys to enable them to retire on their wealth, it’s refreshing that a brewery founder has chosen to help her team benefit from their joint endeavours, rather than choosing to feather her own nest.”

West has launched more than 30 draught beers in the last 13 years – all in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law, the oldest food law in existence, using only four key ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast.

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