01 April 2022

BrewDog CEO responds to private investigator allegations

United Kingdom | James Watt, the co-founder and CEO of BrewDog, says a criminal prosecution is under way for fraud and malicious communication over an alleged campaign of online harassment directed against him.

He thinks that he has been “subject to a 2 year-long coordinated criminal campaign of online harassment, defamation, blackmail, significant fraud, and malicious communications.” The statement comes in response to claims published by The Guardian newspaper on 14 March 2022 that Mr Watt had hired private investigators to gather evidence concerning individuals who had criticised him.

Is BrewDog the target of a criminal campaign?

Mr Watt wrote that he had engaged the digital investigative services to “identify the source of these damaging and false allegations”, and to “understand the extent of the campaign against us and to take appropriate legal action to bring it to an end.” Mr Watt asserted that BrewDog is “about doing something different and building a business we are proud of and I’m sorry that there are a handful of people on a criminal mission to bring us down.”

This is not the first time that Mr Watt has taken to social media to voice his frustration with the recent media coverage surrounding him and BrewDog. He was the subject of a BBC Scotland documentary aired on 24 January this year, titled The Truth About BrewDog. The hour-long programme had interviewed former employees in the UK and United States.

One former employee interviewed for the programme was Rob MacKay. The Guardian article claims that a former colleague of Mr MacKay’s was visited and questioned by two ex-policemen claiming to be working for Mr Watt.

Punks With Purpose respond

Punks With Purpose, a group of mostly former BrewDog staff that complained about the brewery's “toxic work culture” last June, immediately took to Twitter to categorically refute Mr Watt’s claims that one of its founders is implicated in a legal complaint for blackmail. The group said that none of its founding, or current members have been contacted by BrewDog, Mr Watt, lawyers representing either party, or the police.

Separately, Mr Watt has complained to media regulator Ofcom over a string of personal attacks on his character in the BBC Scotland documentary. Mr Watt has also filed a formal complaint directly to the BBC. It is now up to Ofcom to decide whether to launch a formal investigation following the outcome of the BBC complaints process.

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