News

Ex Matilda boss says brewer sold out WA
Ex Matilda boss says brewer 'sold out' WA

It was 1990 and Phil Sexton and the team at Matilda Bay Brewing Co had just inked a deal to export their prized WA brew, Redback, into the United States.

And then along came the almighty Foster's, which flexed its muscle and bought out the then-listed North Fremantle brewer in a deal that valued Matilda Bay at more than $50 million.

Redback never made it to the US - according to Sexton, it was a casualty of existing agreements between Foster's and its then-US distributor.

Speaking from Healesville, Victoria, where he has a winery adjacent to a brewery operated by his mates at Little World Beverages, Sexton yesterday reflected on the history of the company he helped build from humble beginnings at the Sail & Anchor Hotel in 1984 to a WA icon.

The Matilda Bay directors had little choice but to recommend the Foster's bid to shareholder 21 years ago, he said, adding - with tongue in cheek - he'd be "very interested" if Foster's suitor SABMiller "wanted to offer Matilda Bay back to its founders".

But Sexton - still regarded as a visionary in the beer industry, as evidenced by the fact Little World has retained Sexton as a consultant more than a decade after the company was established - said he would not be surprised if Redback eventually disappeared from shelves under SABMiller's ownership. "It's been an interesting ride - my recollections go back to the 1970s when I first got into the beer business and it was the impenetrable fortress of Victoria dominated by this incredibly strong brewer, and now they've given the keys to the farm gate away," he said.

Sexton criticised Foster's for "selling out of WA" when the brewing giant turned off the taps at Matilda Bay in 2007.

He said yesterday the takeover was proof the Melbourne brewer had lost touch with the industry.

"They've failed to grasp the changing dynamics of the beer business," he said. "Premium beers are rapidly consuming the profit share of the industry and they've absolutely failed to deliver on that, and that's because they've failed to recognise that."

Little World founding director Howard Cearns said beer drinkers were less parochial than they used to be but the Foster's takeover nevertheless presented opportunities for the sector's remaining players.

Little World will become Australia's biggest listed brewer with a market capitalisation of $226 million after the Foster's sale.

But Sexton said Lion Nathan, the maker of Swan Draught and Tooheys Extra Dry, stood to gain the most ground from a Foster's-SABMiller takeover in the short-term as suitor and target sorted out conflicts between rival brands and international distribution rights.

The West Australian

Compare & Save

Follow Us

Our Picks

Latest

Recommended Videos

Compare & Save

Partners