Employees of Magic Hat are waiting and wondering. The well-known South Burlington beer-maker is reportedly being eyed by North American Breweries, an industry giant that owns the Genesee and Labatt USA labels. "I'm sure they're looking at diversifying their portfolio," Dann Van Der Vliet, an instructor at the University of Vermont School of Business Administration said.
North American Breweries says prominent industry reports that an acquisition is imminent are just speculation and had no further comment. "Time will tell," said Van Der Vliet.
Magic Hat founder Alan Newman is out of the state right now and told WCAX News by phone even he knows nothing about whether the company he started 16 years ago will be swallowed by a beer giant. Newman told me his financial partners at a Connecticut investment firm are looking at selling their shares in Magic Hat, and admits at this point, he has no idea what that would mean for the brand.
"[Acquisitions are] typically for the better long-term interest of the company," Van Der Vliet said. He adds that takeovers often follow significant growth. Magic Hat recently expanded out West by investing in Pyramid. It also makes beer and runs brewpubs.
Magic Hat's beer is sold in 26 states. Its up-to-date production line churns out up to 400 bottles a minute. "I don't think the product will change," Van Der Vliet said. "That's what attracts many investors to the products in the first place. So why would you come in and buy a product for its quality and change it?"
We asked Newman on February 26 whether the craft brand would ever sell to a big conglomerate. "If somebody comes tomorrow and writes a stupid check? I'm getting old-- how much long can I do this thing? But today, the goal is to continue doing what we're doing, doing it the way we're doing it, and trying to get better at doing it," he said.
"Magic Hat has always had a great presence in the industry," said Steve Miller of the Vt. Brewers Association. "Alan Newman, the founder, has always been an incredible industry leader, has always worked well with the Vermont Brewers Association and we really hope if this transaction is completed, that we'll see that same kind of leadership and quality from the new owners."
Several Magic Hat employees have told us they're expecting to hear about a takeover soon. Newman said he could not comment as to whether or not a deal is actually in the works or what one may mean for the Vermont operation. The director of the Connecticut investment firm Newman said wants to sell its significant share in Magic Hat did not return our call.
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