Running an iconic family business that is no longer family owned offers a unique set of challenges.
thick linen ball, president and chief beer trader a Jacob Leinenkugel Brewery Company, And Tony Bugher, On Wednesday, the Associate Marketing Manager, incoming president and grandson of Leinenkugel guided attendees through some of these challenges during BizTimes Media’s Family & Closely Business Summit at Brookfield Conference Center.
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. was sold to Miller Brewing Co. in 1988 and is now a subsidiary of Molson Coors. Although the Leinenkugel family no longer owns the company, generations of family members have remained at the helm, leading the brand through years of success.
“It (the dynamics) changes over time and certainly with the company’s leadership and strategy,” said Dick Leinenkugel.
He said that in the early years, Leinenkugel Brewing Co. was given a little more freedom as they were “not relevant” to their parent company. Leinenkugel represented a new category of beer, then called specialty beer, and the company found success with its Red Lager and Honey Weiss beers. With a successful track record, the Leinenkugel family was able to continue peak operations.
“When suddenly you drink a beer like Summer Shandy, it takes off, and you, as part of your business plan, decide to take it nationwide, and it becomes a big brand within their portfolio, suddenly you find more people. they are interested in you, “Leinenkugel said.
The key to the partnership between the Leinenkugel family and its parent company is the level of respect for the Leinenkugel brand itself, which has existed for 155 years. Bughe said Molson Coors acknowledges that Leinenkugel Brewing Co. being a family business is an asset in today’s busy beer market.
“The competition is insane in the beer industry and differentiation is key,” Bugher said. “One of our points of differentiation is our history and family involvement. Our parent company recognizes and respects it and our ability to share our family history with our main stakeholders is fundamental to our business ”.
Leinenkugel added that evidence of Molson Coors ‘confidence in the brewery can be seen in Molson Coors’ continued investment in the Chippewa Falls location and in the news that Bughe, the sixth generation of the family – will take over.
Although succession can be a difficult topic, especially when several family members are involved, Bughe said the Leinenkugel family has always maintained a level of respect for both the process and the other.
“We all understand the journey it takes to reach a position like this,” Bugher said. “We have a lot of fun joking about it.”
Prior to joining the family business, Bughe held a variety of roles at Molson Coors, including Handicraft and Import Manager, Field Marketing Manager, and Senior Sales Manager at the distributor. Family members who work their way up the ranks on their own and often gain outside experience has been a role model. He also helped alleviate any possible discrepancies.
“In many ways, I think (the family dissonance) was taken away from us when we sold to Miller Brewing Company,” Leinenkugel said. “We didn’t really have to worry about that. We weren’t family-owned anymore, so if you wanted to get into the business you went under Miller and had to do it yourself. “
When he becomes the sixth generation to lead Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Bughe said he expects the brewery’s next big beer to come out of a new pilot brewery located inside Leinie Lodge. Innovation is and will remain a fundamental component of the brewery culture.