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Young’s historic brewery to close

Industry rumours were confirmed on Tuesday when Young & Co’s Brewery announced that it would be merging with Charles Wells brewery and closing down the famous Ram Brewery in Wandsworth. The creation of the new company, Wells & Young’s Brewing Co, puts an end to the insecurity that has surrounded the firm since it first announced that it would be reviewing the future of its brewing operations in November 2003.

The new company, which will commence trading on 1 October 2006, will operate from what Young’s described as a "modern and efficient brewery" in Bedford after members of the board concluded that it would be "uneconomic" to invest in improving the Ram Brewery because of its age, layout and location. The Eagle Brewery in Bedford is spread over 16 acres and was built in 1976. Young’s will hold a 40% stake in Wells & Young’s, with the remaining equity held by Charles Wells.

Although Young’s has received strong interest from property developers in the 5.5 acre Ram Brewery site and nearby Buckhold Road offices in Wandsworth and claims to be in advanced discussions regarding their disposal, no sale has been announced as yet.

Young’s chief executive, Stephen Goodyear said, "The creation of Wells & Young’s brings together two complementary brewing businesses with unrivalled brewing heritage. Having resolved our brewing options, we can concentrate on completing the sale of the Wandsworth sites, which would unlock substantial capital to continue to build Young’s high quality pub estate and enhance shareholder value. This deal will enable us to make a step change in the financial performance of the company".

Following the merger, Young’s beers will continue to be available in all Young’s pubs. Wells & Young’s portfolio of speciality cask ales and lagers will include key brands such as Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter, Young’s Bitter, Wells Eagle IPA, Young’s Special, Waggledance, Kestrel Lager, Kirin Ichiban Lager and Red Stripe Lager. Wells & Young’s will also be the sole UK distributor of Corona Extra, the world’s fourth largest beer brand.

A spokesperson for Young’s said that, out of 2,000 jobs, approximately 90 would be cut. Jim Robertson, Master Brewer of Charles Wells, has been appointed production director of the new company, while Ken Don, Young’s head brewer, will be retained as a full-time consultant until his retirement. Wells & Young’s will also be setting up a new defined benefit pension scheme for employees transferred to the new company.

The board of the new company will be made up of Stephen Goodyear and Peter Whitehead from Young’s and Paul Wells, who will be chairman, and Roger Ashworth from Charles Wells, together with a management team selected from the existing Charles Wells business led by Nigel McNally, who will be managing director.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said it was disappointed by the announcement, which it described as the "death of more than four centuries of brewing tradition in Wandsworth", and is concerned about the possible implications of the merger. Chief executive Mike Benner said, "CAMRA wants assurances that every one of the beer brands produced by both Young’s and Charles Wells will have a secure future, and that the identity of Young’s 208-strong pub estate and the Charles Wells’ 248 pubs will be safeguarded".

Young’s has stated that it will remain a vertically integrated company and that the two companies will continue to operate their respective pub estates independently.  db News – 24 May 2006

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