The other Charles Wells assets — pubs in the UK and France — are not included in the sale.
The Bedford brewery site is the home of ale brands Bombardier, Courage, and McEwan’s, and the sale also includes the UK distribution rights for Kirin Lager, Estrella Damm, Erdinger and Founders and the exclusive global license of the Young’s brand.
In addition, Cockburn & Campbell, the wine merchants, will also transfer. Charlie Wells and John Bull beers will remain part of Charles Wells Ltd. Employees at the brewery in production, national sales, and brands marketing will transfer to Marston’s.
In the next couple of years Charles Wells will invest in a small, new, Bedford-based brewery to supply beers to its pub customers in the UK and Europe, and brewing and supply agreements will be made with Marston’s for interim brewing and longer-term exclusive pub distribution services. The Charles Wells pub estate will have the benefit of the wider beer and wine range available from Marston’s.
The strategy of Charles Wells has been to develop specialty ale and lager brands and a high-quality pub estate which is either tenanted or managed according to location. Today’s announcement signals an exit from higher volume national sales in favour of a more local and smaller scale brewing future in Bedford.
Focus on expansion
The key focus will become the expansion of the managed pub businesses in the UK and France through acquisition, alongside additional investment in the leased and tenanted estate.
Justin Phillimore, chief executive of Charles Wells Ltd, said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with Marston’s to acquire our brewery and become a close trading partner.
“After a detailed review of our strategy we had decided to re-balance the company more towards retail investment and that meant finding a partner we could work with for the future. There are opportunities for both companies in this deal and we look forward to bringing them to life.”
Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s PLC, added: “Marston’s is delighted to have reached this agreement with Charles Wells and is absolutely committed to the future of brewing in Bedford. This agreement offers us opportunities to extend our trading area into new areas.
“The acquisition of the Charles Wells brewing business builds on Marston’s established brewing prowess and is a further step in our objective to develop the leading premium beer business in the UK market, something that Bedford’s Eagle Brewery will play an important part in.”