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Turning Japanese: Sleeman sold to Sapporo

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Concerns over the possible closure of Guelph-based Sleeman Breweries as a result of its sale were dismissed today after the announcement that Sleeman’s buyer, the Japanese Brewing corp. Sapporo, would be maintain operations here in the Royal City – at least for the time being. The huge sigh of relief you heard Tuesday was from Guelph’s manufacturing sector, who given recent developments, can’t take much more bad news.

The announcement came Friday that Sleeman was being sold to Sapporo in a deal worth $400 million including debt. The early word was that the intent of the Japanese buyers was to pack up the operation and close down the Guelph plant on Claire Road, but it seems just the opposite is true instead. If anything, according to CEO John Sleeman, Sapporo will work toward improving efficiency at the plant and expand its operations as opposed to closing the whole thing down and laying off the 300-plus employees.

Sapporo’s total sales last year are estimated to be around $4.3 billion (CDN), they began selling to North America in 1984 and they are the makers of the current best-selling Japanese beer in the United States. Due to a stagnant and crowded beer marketplace in Japan, Sapporo’s been looking to expand outside of Japan and into North America, especially the US. Sleeman’s looks to fit in well as part of the company’s plan to reach more North American beer drinkers, according to Sleeman.

John Sleeman will remain CEO of the company but part of the deal was that he had to sell all his shares of the company. The sale is expected to be made final in October.

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