James Watt

Watt founded BrewDog alongside Martin Dickie in 2007

BrewDog has announced its founder James Watt is to stand down as CEO and move to a non-executive role.

Watt, who founded BrewDog with Martin Dickie in 2007, is to be replaced in the BrewDog hotseat by current COO James Arrow.

Arrow joined the Scottish craft brewer, distiller and bar operator from Boots opticians last September.

After 17 years as BrewDog CEO, Watt had decided to step down to “concentrate on his other projects and interests”, said BrewDog chair Allan Leighton.

He would remain on the BrewDog board in the role of ‘captain & co-founder’ and remained a major shareholder, the brewer said.

“James Arrow is a proven leader,” said Leighton. “His eight months as COO have given him a great insight into the business. The board is delighted to have him as CEO, to lead the company into its next phase of growth.”

James Watt said: “I want to thank all the incredible people who have helped Martin and me create this unique business. I have loved co-founding this amazing business and leading it for the last 17 years.

“I am excited to take a bit of time off, to travel, to spend more time with my family and friends. I am also looking forward to being able to dedicate some more time to my other business interests.”

Under Watt, BrewDog has grown from an unruly challenger brand to an established mainstay of the beer industry. The company report for the financial year ended 31 December 2022 – released in June 2023 – showed its annual revenues stood at £321m.

It has production sites on three continents, employs more than 2,500 staff and runs over 100 bars across the world.

However, Watt’s tenure has not been without controversy. In a 2022 documentary by BBC’s Disclosure, staff spoke out over a “culture of fear” within the business and accused Watt of inappropriate behaviour – claims he denies. 

Earlier this year, there was further backlash after it announced it would cease paying new bar staff the real living wage.