Boulevard Brewery grew from humble beginnings to be ranked 12th in the nation for craft beer companies. The Kansas City favorite announced October 17 that it had been sold to a 142-year old Belgian company called Duvel Moortgat Brewery.
When Boulevard Brewery founder John McDonald started his micro-brewery 24 years ago, he wasn't even thinking of an exit plan. His original business plan included 7,000 barrels per year and seven employees. He now produces 190,000 barrels and has 125 employees.
But, McDonald turned 60 this year, and he says he knew it was time to consider his options for transitioning out of the company.
"In the last decade, I became much more of a business man, I wasn't involved in the things I used to be," he says. "I felt like I'd outlived my usefulness."
Here are some highlights from the interview with John McDonald:
On why an employee-owned Boulevard Brewery wasn't the best option
McDonald says that he did consider transitioning Boulevard to being employee-owned, but he felt the business was in such a flux that it wasn't the best option. Based on his friends' experiences in transitioning their own businesses to employee ownership, McDonald thought the process would take about 10 years.
"I'd already put in my exit strategy, so that wasn't the best option for me, " he says.
On why McDonald feels the future of the brewery is in good hands
McDonald affirms that Duvel Moortgat isn't simply interested in buying the Boulevard brand and disregarding its employees and ideals.
"I picked a trade partner who I thought would help grow the business," Mcdonald says. "We've always been considered a really quality, practical, well intentioned brewer, and we have that reputation locally, regionally, and even nationally."
McDonald is now handing over that reputation to a brewery he feels is like-minded in their own business and beer philosophy.
- John McDonald, founder of Boulevard Brewery
- Erik Olsen, Associate Professor of Economics at UMKC (During the show we incorrectly identified Professor Olsen as being from Rutgers University)