image courtesy of Stone Brewing and Sapporo

With its financial troubles highlighted in the lawsuit that it won against Molson Coors in late March 2022, Stone Brewing has just announced that it is selling its business to Sapporo U.S.A., a subsidiary of Japan’s Sapporo Breweries. It’s been reported that the Stone was sold for $168 million, The one entity of Stone Brewing’s business that is not part of the sale is Stone Distributing Co. as it will become an independent company under current ownership. The transaction is expected to close in August 2022.

This acquisition by Sapporo, the number-one selling Asian beer brand in the U.S., will allow the brewer to have much needed capacity to brew it’s beers for North American at Stone Brewing’s two U.S. based breweries. 90% of its overseas sales come from this market. Most of the Sapporo sold in the U.S. has been brewed at City Brewing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, now this is certain to change.

Though the purchase price may seem a bit low for the Stone brand, it also comes with some debt. In late March a court sided in favor of Stone Brewing as it prevailed in its lawsuit against MillerCoors, now known as Molson Coors. In its lawsuit, Stone Brewing set out seeking $216 million but according to Reuters, the 9th largest craft brewer has been awarded $56 million. But with any case this does not mean that it’s a done deal as Molson Coors has the ability to appeal the ruling.

In this same Reuters article, Molson Coors spokesperson Marty Maloney made a stunning announcement on what the future holds for Stone Brewing. “What we learned through this trial is that Stone Brewing’s lawsuit was not driven by consumer confusion and that Stone Brewing has a $464 million debt to pay to their private equity investors in 2023.” This debt to investor VMG/Hillhouse has proven to be too much for the longtime craft brewer and now Stone joins the Sapporo family and its portfolio that also includes Anchor Steam Brewing and Canada’s Sleeman Breweries.

Here are additional details in today’s press release from Stone Brewing…

This east-meets-west acquisition brings together the complementary strengths of Japanese artistry and innovation with the American craft brewing tradition in a fusion of cultures creating strength and growth potential for both brands. Sapporo gains major, high-quality brewing capacity on both U.S. coasts that will enable it to significantly increase production to meet the strong consumer demand of its Sapporo-branded beers for the domestic market. Stone Brewing gains the resources of the largest Asian beer brand in America and its commitment to preserve Stone’s legacy, culture and innovative approach to craft brewing.

Sapporo intends to produce its Sapporo-branded beers for U.S. distribution in Stone’s two state-of-the-art breweries, in Escondido, California and Richmond, Virginia. Building on existing capabilities, and supported by planned capital investments, Sapporo intends to brew 360,000 barrels in the U.S. by…

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