BrewDog chief Allan Leighton accuses HR crisis adviser of stoking fire as toxic row with staff rages
City great Allan Leighton has clashed over the ‘toxic’ culture of Scottish beer company BrewDog.
The brewer, which is eyeing a £1billion IPO, is trying to mend barriers with employees after being accused last year of creating a ‘rotten culture of fear’.
But in the latest twist, Leighton, the chairman, launched an extraordinary tirade against a Berlin-based human resources consultancy Hand & Heart which had offered to help mediate with disgruntled staff.
Fury: Chairman Allan Leighton accused the agency of fueling the fire
In a letter seen by The Mail on Sunday, he accused the consultancy of making the problem worse and criticized a demand by the firm for the payment of £100,000. Leighton said BrewDog would not commit the company to run a “reconciliation” program and accused it of “amplifying” criticism on social media.
The latest standoff threatens to derail attempts to repair staff relations.
The initial complaints against the company emerged in a letter last summer from 60 former employees calling themselves Punks with Purpose.
Earlier this year, co-founder James Watt threatened to take legal action against the BBC over a documentary he said included personal attacks on his character.
The company commissioned an independent review of its management culture. He engaged in leadership training, increased salaries for his staff and set up a hotline.
Earlier this year, Watt told the Mail on Sunday that the charges against him had triggered a “period of reflection on my leadership”. Leighton, who is also chairman of the co-op and former boss of Asda, said in a memo to staff that BrewDog’s chief personnel officer, Karen Bates, had spent “a considerable amount of time” speaking to the chief executive of Hand & Heart, Kate. Bailey. He said the council took his offer of help “very seriously”.
Although he had not been formally hired, the consultancy launched an online “affected worker check-in platform” in conjunction with the group Punks with Purpose, where staff were asked to post complaints.
But in a letter sent to Bailey last week, Leighton blasted Hand & Heart, accusing it of fanning the flames. “The inevitable impression is that of H&H instructing the company to put out a fire it is fueling itself,” he wrote.
He added: “We believe it is impossible for you to be a neutral mediator in a sensitive private setting.”
A source said ‘Bailey has presented herself as an awakened warrior, but seeking financial gain from it seems hypocritical.’
Stand-off: H&H’s Kate Bailey called Leighton’s letter ‘offensive’
Bailey replied in a letter to Leighton that Hand & Heart had acted “in good faith” and added that his missive was “full of unsubstantiated accusations…and frankly, is unbecoming of a leader of your stature and position. in the business world”. She also described Leighton’s letter as “offensive, misinformed and inconsistent”.
“I don’t work to ‘save BrewDog,’ I work for justice for those your workplace has impacted,” she said. “I have a duty to respond when public accusations arise, especially those relating to the chief executive of late. If you’re looking for fuel and fire, start there.
Bailey said she will continue to collect submissions and support those affected.
Last month, The Guardian newspaper reported that Watt had hired private investigators to obtain information about people he believed were involved in a smear campaign against him.
BrewDog has grown rapidly as the popularity of craft beer exploded in Britain.
An IPO has also been long promised for the 200,000 “equity punks” brought on board through crowdfunding rounds since the brand launched in 2007.
Watt and his co-founder Martin Dickie pulled off a series of eye-catching stunts that helped restore his image as an upstart rival to mainstream beer brands.
These included dropping plush “taxidermy bombs” on the city to protest corporate fat cat greed, and Watt and Dickie dressing up as red-light district sex workers for a crowdfunding ad.