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Victoria’s Phillips Brewing moves toward employee ownership, company says


Victoria's iconic Phillips Brewing Company is moving toward an employee-ownership model after more than two decades under the ownership of its founder.

The company says the move is supported by an investment from Vancouver-based Yellow Point Equity Partners.

"All employees are being given the chance to be owners as well as brewers, bottlers, and beer evangelists," the company said in a statement posted to its Instagram account Thursday.

Dedicated employees who have been with the company for three years will be eligible to become owners."

Founder Matt Phillips will remain active in the company, while its employees take on "a substantial and growing stake in the brewery over the next few years," the company said.

Phillips tells CTV News that the move is intended to reward employees, and wasn't due to any financial concerns.

"The reason why we're doing this is because over the last few years more and more staff have become more and more responsible for all the day to day operations around here," he said.

"And as we've grown from a one-person show to a 100-person show it really makes everyone responsible for different things, so I think it's a great time to recognize those contributions and give people some autonomy and ownership over the outcomes of the brewery," said Phillips.

A Philips Backyard Weekender music festival is pictured on July 27, 2015. (CTV News)Mark Colgate, a professor with the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business, called the move "unusual" in the brewery's case.

"You often see employees buying out when a company is struggling," Colgate said Thursday. "But in this case, I think it's a good sign."

Colgate cautioned the move could complicate any future sale of the company or any eventual exit for its new partner, Yellow Point.

"But it's a really nice way of employees being able to invest their own money in it and their own future in it and help the company grow," he said.

"But I think the goal is that these employees now will become basically a lot more investment in the company, will probably play more senior roles in the company and they will help employee engagement across the company because they have a stake in it as well."

Braxton Glass, who has worked at the Victoria brewery for five years, called the ownership announcement "a really exciting opportunity" for employees.

"It's always had a nice family kind of feel," he said of the company. "It's nice to kind of take that next step and take the relationship a little further."

Phillips says most customers won't notice any changes at the business once the program take effect next month.

"What does it mean for the company? From an outside perspective it doesn't really mean anything," he said.

"It still means all the same staff are all coming up with the same great beers and always pushing for quality and always pushing for new fun events and ways to express who we are as a brewery. So none of that changes as a result of this," he said.

"All it really changes is internally staff have more ownership over the parts of the brewery they're running."

Phillips says he expects most employees, who must have worked there for at least three years full time, will participate in the program. Top Stories

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