12 November 2012

Albert Cramer

Albert Cramer, the owner of the Warsteiner Group, passed away on 20 November 2012, after a long Illness. He was 69 years old.

The German brewing industry loses one of its more colourful albeit controversial characters. A true son of the land, he could be stubborn and offstandish, yet at times charming and very much down-to-earth. In his youth he was a bit of a lad, whereas in later years he gravitated towards the role of a patriarch, someone to be obeyed not contradicted.

His private life and his professional life saw their fair share of dramas and tragedies, all under the glaring light of the media.

The Warsteiner Brewery, which was founded in 1753, was run by his father and his cousin when he joined in 1968 at the age of 25. At the time, Warsteiner was a medium-sized brewery in the back of beyond, whose beers were sold round the chimney, as the German saying goes. But in Warstein they were no country bumpkins. They saw that marketing – in those days a newfangled discipline – could take their beer to places and eventually to market leadership.

By the time he took over in 1985, the brewery was producing 2 million hl beer. However, to become the sole owner, he had to buy out his cousin Claus for an estimated 200 million Deutschmarks (today EUR 100 million).

In subsequent years, Mr Cramer turned his family business into Germany’s largest brewing company. With the slogan “The real deal” (“Das einzig Wahre”) his Warsteiner pils became the biggest selling beer brand in Germany. At its peak in 1994 Warsteiner sold more than 6 million hl beer.

Mr Cramer initiated an ambitious expansion programme, which led him to set up distribution companies in the U.S., Italy and the Netherlands. Even more ambitious was his plan to tap into emerging markets. In Argentina, in 1994, he built a one million hl brewery outside Buenos Aires, which unfortunately never turned profitable. It was sold to SABMiller in 2010. Same with his three breweries in Africa, which he was forced to sell to France’s Pierre Castel in 2007.

Back in Germany, Mr Cramer liked to dabble in M&A. He bought several breweries, including the Paderborn brewery, the Düsseldorf Frankenheim brewery and the brewery Herford in Westphalia, plus a stake in Schloßbrauerei Kaltenberg in Bavaria. For some years, these takeovers helped to conceal the fact that his own Warsteiner Brewery was witnessing significant volume losses. By 2011 its output had dropped to 2.7 million hl beer, including exports.

Today, the Warsteiner Group, which includes the German Welcome Hotel Group, employs some 2,300 people and has an annual turnover of more than EUR 520 million.

Mr Cramer is survived by his three daughters, Christina, Josephin and Catherina and five grandchildren.

To ensure that his brewery will be run by a ninth generation family member, his youngest daughter, Catharina Cramer, 34, in 2006 joined the Warsteiner management team. She will succeed her father.

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