Harpoon Brewery to Become an Employee-Owned Company

Cofounder Rich Doyle stepping down as CEO, his shares divided between Harpoon's full-time employees.

harpoon brewery

Harpoon’s employees celebrating inside their Boston brewery. Photo provided

The Harpoon Brewery, the twelfth largest craft brewery in the country, will become an employee-owned company starting on August 1. Cofounder Rich Doyle has decided to step down as CEO, becoming a part-time employee focusing on sales and new business development, while his partner Dan Kenary takes over his former position. Doyle, along with five other key investors, sold most of their shares in Harpoon and transferred them into an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), equaling 48-percent of the company.

“Rich and I knew that we’d have to address this problem at some point,” Kenary says. “Every successful private business faces this question. About a year ago we started talking more earnestly about what we wanted to do with the company and Rich expressed some desire for more liquidity and to start pursuing other things. It’s a hot time in craft beer so we definitely had some private equity people, outside investors, and strategic buyers who had approached us about buying the business. We had a number of options, but we ultimately decided as a shareholder group that we would pursue the employee-owned business model.”

The ESOP will be divided up between Harpoon’s 187 full-time employees at the end of July. The announcement was made on July 9 during Harpoon’s annual mid-year sales meeting.

“For our regularly scheduled mid-year meeting, we invited in all of our salespeople from across the country and rented a bus to drive everyone down from our Vermont brewery,” Kenary says. “I went into a retrospective about the 28 years we’ve been in business. I asked six random employees to stand up and turn to the person next to them. Then I told them to ‘introduce yourself to the new owner of the Harpoon Brewery.’ It was electric! There were gasps, shout, and cheers. Then people just started to cry. It was a great moment. We’ve had people who have worked with us their whole career. The idea that all of our employees now have the opportunity to fully share in the financial success of the company, that’s a fantastic thing.”