The West

It was over in little more than the time it takes to pour a long, cold glass of pale ale. And that's what the founders and shareholders of Little World Beverages had waiting for them after rubber-stamping the sale of the WA-born brewer to Japanese-owned Lion.

By proxy or in person at the Little Creatures Loft as the sun began to set on Fremantle Harbour, more than 99 per cent of shareholders backed the deal. _WestBusiness _understands some sentimental current and ex-employees were among the few to oppose the deal, which values LWB at $362 million.

After the Federal Court approves the takeover tomorrow, Lion will pay shareholders $5.10 a share and a 20¢ special dividend on October 8. It will be a big payday for some of the founders and biggest shareholders. Among the directors, Adrian Fini will enjoy a $55 million windfall while Howard Cearns will be $21.7 million better off.

"There's an interesting group of people here and I doubt they'll sit still," Mr Cearns said yesterday following the shareholder vote. "There's certainly no brewery plans. We've got some other projects on the boil." Mr Cearns, who founded the Little Creatures brand with Nic Trimboli and Phil Sexton in the late 1990s, did not rule out a consulting role at LWB but said that depended on the new owners.

"If anybody talks about Little Creatures, it's often about the people who they interact with and come into contact with at the coalface," Mr Cearns said. "That's the emotional part of it, you remember all those people that have worked in the business and affectionately call themselves creatures."

Chief executive Ross Sudano said he did not expect Lion to make major changes for at least six months.

"It'll give Lion an opportunity to learn about Little Creatures and what we do and then I'm sure at some stage they'll make some changes," he said. "I'm a pale ale drinker and as long as we continue to protect pale ale and invest in making the best pale ale we possibly can I think most consumers won't notice the difference."

Nor did the Melbourne-based Mr Sudano believe the sale would represent a shift away from LWB's brewing and entertainment facilities in its Fremantle birthplace.

LWB now has Victorian operations and is building a brewery in Geelong.

"We're a bigger company than just Perth, but Perth's really special to who we are and where we come from and I think always will be," he said.

The West Australian

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