We are apparently in the final days of the auction that will determine what (if any) future there is for SF’s Anchor Brewing Co. and popular Anchor Steam beer, with the winning bidder reportedly being determined by the end of January.
We’re now six months past the shock announcement that SF’s own Anchor Brewing Co. was shutting down and declaring bankruptcy, as the company’s 2017 buyer Sapporo Holdings decided the 127-year-old brewery and beer brand was just no longer worth it.
The way this bankruptcy is structured, Anchor’s assets are all being auctioned off by something called an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors, which may mean the Anchor brand, or Anchor Steam beer as we know it, could indeed survive. We only know of two groups bidding on parts of the company (though there may be other secret bids out there).
But according to the Chronicle, the auction process is now in its final days. A Monday morning report in the Chronicle says that “a winner is expected to be chosen by the end of the month” in the Anchor bidding. Given that report was published January 22, and there are 31 days in January, that means in the next ten days we’ll likely know who’s taking over (or killing off) the Anchor Brewing Co.
That Chronicle article profiles the fellow seen in the tweet above, 30-year-old investor and venture capitalist Mike Walsh. He seems to have a respectable track record, and per the Chronicle, his investment team includes former Pete’s Wicked Ale CFO Jim Collins, and even Anchor’s previous 1965 savior Fritz Maytag (yes, Fritz Maytag is still very much alive). Walsh’s group hopes to buy the Potrero Hill brewery and the brand, effectively resurrecting Anchor as we knew it, albeit as a smaller operation. But he has other competitors bidding.
“My concern is that Anchor ends up in the hands of a large conglomerate who doesn’t understand San Francisco culture and history, and destroys the brand for good,” Walsh told the Chronicle, insinuating there may be another big beer brand in the bidding mix.
But as seen above, Anchor's assets are being sold in three separate parts: the brand and intellectual property (effectively, the recipes and logos), the equipment at the Potrero Hill brewery, and the 109,000 square-foot brewery itself. The three parts could all be sold separately to different bidders.
To bid alongside other potential buyers, Anchor SF Cooperative has launched an investment crowdfunding campaign to reopen the brewery in San Francisco. Invest to help them reach their first $250K milestone! https://t.co/2aK74IZpJO— Anchor Union (@anchorunionSF) November 30, 2023
Legal disclosures: https://t.co/QRYUYqAfr9 pic.twitter.com/yR3HcSFqSa
And the former Anchor Brewing employees are making a bid, via a crowdfunding campaign that has raised about a half-million dollars, which they hope to leverage into a larger bank loan. But those employees are reportedly only interested in buying the intellectual property (IP), and brewing the beer at a different, smaller location. Anchor SF Cooperative chairperson Patrick Machel told industry publication Vinepair in November, “We’re guessing [$2.5 million] is the lowest number the IP is going to be sold for.”
And it would not be a shock if some unknown dark horse bidder with no interest in the beer buys the brewery property, to turn it into condos or some such. The Chronicle reported in October that Sapporo was asking $40 million for the property, though as everyone knows, it is not the most robust market for commercial real estate in SF right now.
Sapporo has hired local PR guy Sam Singer as the spokesperson for these bankruptcy proceedings, and he says that “there would be names that you’d recognize” among those who’ve submitted bids. That seems to indicate that one or more established beer brands have shown interest, or it may be more of a poker-face move to drive bidding prices higher.
And we’ll probably have the answer to that mystery within the next ten days.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist