Bedford’s Charles Wells brewery to be sold lock, stock and barrel in £55m deal

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Bedford’s historic Charles Wells brewery is to be been sold lock, stock and barrel to pub giants Marston’s.

Agreements were signed today to sell the Havelock Street site and bulk of of Charles Wells’ brand sale interests for a “cash consideration” of £55 million.

But the famous brewery family has assured the Times and Citizen the sale will NOT mean the end of Charles Wells in Bedford.

“We are planning to set up a smaller brewery in the town over the next couple of years and we are already looking at sites,” said a spokesman.

Charles Wells will retain two of its brands - the well-known Charlie Wells specials and also John Bull lager.

But all its other famous brews such as Bombardier, Eagle, McEwan’s, Young’s and Eagle will be under the Marston’s label.

The riverside brewery was founded by Charles Wells himself in 1876 and has spent the past 140 years brewing its distinctive beers for pubs all over the UK and France.

These pubs will not be included in the sale.

The brewery employs 300 people, many of whom have worked there for decades. Though their employment will be protected under Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (TUPE), bosses was unable to comment on whether there will be any redundancies, job losses or changes when Marston’s take over.

Charles Wells’ wine merchant, Cockburn & Campbell, will also transfer in the deal.

The spokesman said: “In the next couple of years Charles Wells will invest in a small new, Bedford based, brewery to supply beers to its pub customers in the UK and Europe, and brewing and supply agreements will be made with Marston’s for interim brewing and longer term exclusive pub distribution services. The Charles Wells pub estate will have the benefit of the wider beer and wine range available from Marston’s.”

He added: “The strategy of Charles Wells has been to develop speciality ale and lager brands and a high-quality pub estate which is either tenanted or managed according to location. Today’s announcement signals an exit from higher volume national sales in favour of a more local and smaller scale brewing future in Bedford. The key focus will become the expansion of the managed pub businesses in the UK and France through acquisition, alongside additional investment in the leased and tenanted estate.”

Justin Phillimore, Chief Executive of Charles Wells Ltd, said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with Marston’s to acquire our brewery and become a close trading partner. After a detailed review of our strategy we had decided to re-balance the company more towards retail investment and that meant finding a partner we could work with for the future. There are opportunities for both companies in this deal and we look forward to bringing them to life”

Meanwhile Ralph Findlay, Chief Executive Officer of Marston’s PLC, told the T&C: “Marston’s is delighted to have reached this agreement with Charles Wells and is absolutely committed to the future of brewing in Bedford. This agreement offers us opportunities to extend our trading area into new areas. The acquisition of the Charles Wells brewing business builds on Marston’s established brewing prowess and is a further step in our objective to develop the leading premium beer business in the UK market, something that Bedford’s Eagle Brewery will play an important part in.”