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The Scoop: The next 20 years at Schlafly: Majority ownership by Sage Capital, eyes for a new brewery – and a farm

January 5th 10:01am, 2012

062110_SchlaflyThe St. Louis Brewery, which most St. Louisans simply refer to as Schlafly Beer, is adding names to its ownership roster. Yesterday, the company announced that it had signed a purchase agreement to transfer 60-percent ownership of the business to a local investor group led by Wes Jones and John Lemkemeier, co-founders of St. Louis-based private equity firm Sage Capital, as reported by Evan Benn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The deal, which will be completed once licenses and permits have been issued by government agencies, will posit the 13-person investor group as majority shareholders. However, that doesn’t mean co-founders Tom Schlafly and Dan Kopman will be saying farewell to the company they founded 20 years ago. Both Schlafly and Kopman will retain an interest in the company, with Schlafly initially retaining 20-percent ownership and Kopman at least 10 percent. Schlafly will serve as chairman of the board while also working to promote the Schlafly brand, while Kopman will remain in his role as CEO and also serve on the new board. In addition, 10 percent of the business will be available for purchase by eligible employees. (In the April 2011 issue of Sauce, Schlafly discussed reasons for wanting to make shares available to employees: “The employees who have been here a long time are the ones who have made the business what it is and who understand our mission, whatever that is. If I want to see that continued, I would trust their vision, rather than some outsider who had never heard of the brewery before.”)

While changes to day-to-day operations at Schlafly are not anticipated, The Scoop did discuss down-the-road operations with Kopman, particularly regarding his (paraphrased) comments published yesterday in an article by The St. Louis Business Journal, that “the Sage investment will give the business deeper pockets in the event the brewery needs to expand and build another production facility.”

When and where will the next Schlafly brewery be? “There is no timetable for building another brewery. That the site would produce beer for the next 20 years … a lot of thought that goes into that. The more time we take, the better that decision would be informed,” said Kopman, who estimated that the company would need somewhere in the realm of 40 acres for a new facility. Kopman also noted that he was “intrigued with growing vegetables. A brewery with a farm with it; we are very interested in the urban farming movement. Although there is no plan – I could see a future farm and brewery, but I have no idea what that looks like.”

As for a location, “We’d take the same approach as when we decided to build The Bottleworks,” Kopman said, explaining that the city of St. Louis was a first choice, but “if we can t find the right site, we would look elsewhere … probably in the metropolitan St. Louis area. We’ll look as close to home as possible to start with.”

By Ligaya Figueras

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