James Watt: Who is the BrewDog CEO and what do former employees say about his behavior on the BBC show?

The allegations made in the new BBC documentary come after Punks with Purpose exposed a ‘culture of fear’ in the company last year

James Watt, CEO and co-founder of BrewDog, has been accused of “inappropriate conduct” in a new BBC investigative documentary.

The new accusations come months after hundreds of current and former BrewDog employees signed an open letter that showcased a “culture of fear” and “deviation” within the company.

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Who is James Watt?

James Watt is the co-founder, with Martin Dickie, of BrewDog, a chain of breweries and pubs founded in Fraserburg, Scotland, in 2007.

Watt shared an apartment with Dickie while he attended the University of Edinburgh, where he eventually earned a degree in law and economics. Dickie meanwhile studied distilling at Heriot Watt University.

After graduating, Watt got a job as a trainee solicitor, taking on internal legal responsibilities – but he ended up leaving after just two weeks.

James Watt (centre) with Martin Dickie (left) and Adam Stotsky from Esquire (Image: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Esquire)

He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and earn his captain’s certificate, becoming the captain of a fishing boat.

At the age of 24, Watt and Dickie entered the beer market, starting with small batches and hand bottling before expanding to a wider range. By its second year in production, BrewDog had become Scotland’s largest independent brewery.

BrewDog CEO Watt has largely become the face of the company over the years while Dickie keeps more of the work behind the scenes.

What is the BBC documentary Disclosure?

Facts about BrewDog is a BBC One documentary from Disclosure series. The hour-long documentary aired on BBC One Scotland on Monday 24 January and is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

During the show, reporter Mark Daly set out to investigate “the truth behind the company’s marketing and financial hype” and throughout the show he heard “disturbing statements about corporate culture.” BrewDog’s business”.

In 2021, former BrewDog members created the collective Punks have a purposeand issued an open letter on behalf of more than 300 former and current BrewDog employees that exposed the company’s “culture of fear” and “sexism and perversion.”

The documentary was made after an investigation was launched into the company (Image: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Within days of the open letter being published, BrewDog made a commitment to Punks with the intent of addressing the concerns and issues raised.

Immediately after the open letter was published, Disclosure According to BBC.

In Facts about BrewDogMore than 15 former BrewDog employees have spoken out against Watt, with former BrewDog USA workers claiming that Watt’s behavior made female bartenders feel “annoyed” and “helpless.”

What are the charges against James Watt?

BrewDog currently has more than 100 bars and employs more than 2,000 people worldwide. It opened its first bar in the US in 2016 and now has eight locations across three states.

In the documentary, 12 former American employees spoke out against Watt.

Katelyn Ising, who used to work at BrewDog’s flagship brewery and bar in Ohio, says employees will warn new female employees about Watt.

She said: “We want to warn new girls… like, ‘Hey, you know, James Watt’s coming to town. Kind of like, let’s leave after your shift, don’t really hang around, don’t always do your hair and makeup that day, as if you didn’t get his attention.” .”

Several former and current employees spoke out on the show (Image: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)

Dylan Gray, who was a manager at BrewDog in Columbus, told the show: “I’m going to schedule some female employees around. [Watt]…so they won’t be there.

“I will schedule more men on the nights when he is there. I would sit… behind the bar with the female staff so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.”

Duty manager Nathan Quick, who worked at BrewDog’s Franklinton bar until last year, was one of two former employees who said they witnessed Watt having sex on the rooftop bar.

Quick said: “He was on the rooftop kissing this young lady with his hand on her shirt… It’s not unusual for us to be aware that it was happening, but for us it was just seeing it. … is something else. ”

Kayla McGuire, who still works in the Ohio brewery, also spoke up.

She said: “I don’t think leaders can intimidate their employees… I don’t [think] Anyone has to go to work and dread what is about to happen to them, especially not in an industry that needs to be playful and fun and creative. ”

What do James Watt’s attorneys say about the claims?

Regarding the claims made in the documentary, Watts’ attorney said that the BrewDog CEO “explicitly denied” any inappropriate conduct.

Addressing the claim that Gray intentionally avoided scheduling female partners to shield them from Watt, his attorney said: “This has been categorically denied. At no time did Mr. Watt show unwelcome attention to any female bartender. That account is not true… this has been fully investigated by Centric HC, who have concluded that there is no substance to these claims.”

His attorney added that, according to BrewDog investigations, none of the managers interviewed had any knowledge of employees attempting to change shifts to avoid Watt.

Watt’s lawyers say ‘there is no substance to these claims’ (Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Speaking of the alleged sexual encounter on the bar’s rooftop, his lawyer said: “At no point did Mr Watt have intercourse on the rooftop of Franklinton Bar.

“We held a statement from the only party Mr Watt could have at Franklinton Bar. She confirmed in her statement that Mr Watt and she briefly visited the roof, but absolutely no sexual encounters took place.

“She has also confirmed that it is far from drunk; she drove herself home that night.”

Mr Watt’s attorney said that they “hold a statement from BrewDog Franklinton’s manager, that this was never reported to him, nor know Mr. Watt had ever had any sexual encounters. Have sex with someone on the rooftop bar. ”

How did James Watt respond?

At 7pm on Monday 24th January, Watt tweeted: “The BBC has released claims that are completely untrue and they published them despite the extensive evidence we have provided to substantiate the claims. that they are wrong.

Reluctantly, I am now forced to sue the BBC to protect my reputation.

Watt has turned off replies to tweets meaning users can’t reply to him directly, but still allows quote tweets.

The majority of those who cited the tweet claimed to be critical of Watt, with one person writing: “”Protect my reputation” Your workers are organizing against the toxic and potentially harmful workplace. misogyny deep roots protect them [sic] you pr**k. ”

Another wrote: “You have ended your life partner. You should listen to your workers and their unions. You should have done what we asked for six months ago.”

Another tweeted: “Reputation what?? S**t beer, s**t company, s**t attitude #BrewDog. ”

“Reality: “It is true that I am being called, and extremely scared because I must finally deal with the consequences”.” wrote otherwise.

What did BrewDog say?

Allan Leighton, President of BrewDog, released a statement on January 25 in response Facts about BrewDog.

Leighton said that, following the open letter from 2021, BrewDog “oversaw a significant independent review of our culture, including outreach to all signatories and all departures.” over the past 12 months” and that a “wide-ranging action plan to address the issues raised” has been implemented.

He apologized to former BrewDog members and added that “for those who feel strongly enough about their experience to join the program, we urge them to contact our Human Resources Team or use our independent ethics hotline so we can listen and act”.

BrewDog President Allan Leighton says any allegations of misconduct are ‘taken extremely seriously’ (Image by Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)

“Any allegation of impropriety is taken very seriously,” Leighton said.

“James has provided full assurance that the statements made by the BBC are inaccurate and based on rumours and misinformation. When complaints were filed in the US, they were fully investigated by an external third party and found to be bogus.

“James is committed to improving his management style and he will continue that development under my advice.

“He has expressed considerable regret if his manner made the crew uncomfortable – that was clearly not his intention and particularly goes against the corporate culture that he maintains. we want to build.”

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Huynh Nguyen

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