13 June 2024

Anchor brewery bought by founder of yoghurt brand Chobani

USA | There are still entrepreneurs who like a challenge. The colourful and often sad story of San Francisco’s Anchor brewery is about to add a new chapter. Because on 31 May, media reported that the billionaire founder and CEO of Chobani Yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya, acquired the firm lock, stock, and barrel.

After Anchor’s previous owner, Japan’s Sapporo, shut down the 127-year-old but lossmaking brewery last July, the plan was to auction Anchor’s assets in three lots: the intellectual property (brands etc), the real estate and the brewery kit. But the auction dragged on as other potential buyers – local investors and a former workers’ co-op among them – bowed out. In the end, Mr Ulukaya’s family office took over the whole lot for an undisclosed sum. Observers say he could have paid up to USD 50 million since the real estate alone was valued at USD 40 million.

According to Forbes, Mr Ulukaya, 51, grew up in a Kurdish dairy-farming family in Turkey, and immigrated to the US in 1994 to study English in upstate New York. With a loan from the Small Business Administration, he bought an old dairy plant there in 2005 and started selling his Greek-style yogurt in 2007. By 2023, Chobani had more than 3 000 employees and some USD 2 billion in sales. The company also owns La Colombe Coffee Roasters, a roaster and retailer, which it bought in 2023 for USD 900 million. Forbes estimates Mr Ulukaya’a personal wealth at USD 2.3 billion.

Will he be pro-union?

Mr Ulukaya hopes to restart beer production as quickly as possible, to be ready when Anchor re-launches its popular Christmas ale, aka Our Special Ale, for the 2024 holidays, which was intended to be the 50th anniversary of that iconic brew. He said he wants to return to the Anchor’s previous labels after a much-maligned redesign in 2021. And not least, he seeks to bring back most of Anchor’s previous employees.

However, local media took note that Mr Ulukaya, at a recent press briefing, admitted he did not know whether the union that had formed at Anchor shortly before the brewery closed would be part of the new operations.

With or without the union, the revival of Anchor will be a tough job even for an entrepreneur who has seemingly deep pockets.

Brauwelt International Newsletter

Newsletter archive and information

Mandatory field