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BrewDog co-founder accused of trying to intimidate ex-staff over BBC Scotland Disclosure show

The Ellon-based company has been put under scrutiny in a new BBC Disclosure documentary.

Published: January 21, 2022
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Titled Disclosure: The Truth About BrewDog, the programme will air at 7pm on BBC One Scotland on Monday 24 January, and sees reporter Mark Daly investigate 'the truth behind the company's marketing and financial hype.'

According to the show blurb, Daly 'hears disturbing claims about BrewDog’s corporate culture.'

In June last year, an open letter from former staff emerged accusing the BrewDog company environment of being “toxic” and detrimental to their mental health.

Co-founder James Watt apologised after the letter, which came from 61 former employees - and at least 45 others who remain anonymous, was posted online.

The letter was posted on Twitter by account Punks With Purpose, and a paragraph towards the end of it was directed to co-founder James Watt and said: “It is with you that the responsibility for this rotten culture lies.

"Your attitude and actions are at the heart of the way BrewDog is perceived, from both inside and out.

"By valuing growth, speed and action above all else, your company has achieved incredible things, but at the expense of those who delivered your dreams.”

Some of these allegations will be addressed in the BBC programme.

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Now, Watt is being accused of trying to intimidate former staff that spoke to the broadcaster for the show.

According to the Guardian, new posts in BrewDog’s “Equity for Punks” forum, appear to show James Watt try to warn sources who gave evidence to the BBC that they may not remain anonymous.

It it reported that he said: “All of this is very, very likely to end up in court.” And the BBC “will likely have told sources that their identity will remain anonymous”.

He added, after writing that "anonymity can never be guaranteed."

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"If anyone is in any way concerned by this, it is not too late to withdraw your consent,”

Watt said: “We … know false information has been given to the BBC, which if broadcast would be highly defamatory. BrewDog fully supports transparency and investigative journalism. However, it must also protect itself from defamatory allegations and will not hesitate to do so.”

A spokesperson for the Unite trade union responded to Watt's comments, saying: “Any attempt to intimidate current and former workers taking a stand on systemic mistreatment will not be tolerated.

“We will represent all Unite members fully against efforts by a multimillionaire to silence them.”

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The programme listing for the BBC Scotland show reads: "The Ellon-based beer company fast became an international success story by setting themselves up as the bad boys of brewing, ripping up the rule book and ridiculing Big Beer at every opportunity.

"They’ve faced claims of a toxic and misogynistic work culture from former staff; problems BrewDog says are now behind them.

"The company says it has learned from past mistakes and that most current staff enjoy working there. Disclosure hears from former employees who say they found it a miserable and uncomfortable experience. Some loyal customers now say they regret investing their savings in BrewDog."

In June when allegations were made, Watt posted on LinkedIn the steps the company was taking to investigate.

The lengthy post explained the steps that BrewDog is taking, which include an independent review, an anonymous staff survey, a structure review, exit interviews, salary reviews, an ethics hotline and career development and training.

With regards to the independent review, this will be conducted by Wiser. James wrote: We have appointed Wiser to conduct a full, unbiased review of culture within BrewDog. Wiser are one of the leading culture consultancies globally."

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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