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Modern Times Beer Further Cements Independence with Employee Ownership Program

America's Fastest Growing Breweries
Avg. Reading Time: 4 min

Over the past four years, Modern Times Beer has exploded on to the craft beer scene in a major way, growing from a production of 2000 barrels in their first year of existence, to over 40,000 barrels this past year. While many breweries who exhibit such a drastic growth pattern have eventually turned to outside funding to help further their endeavors, the San Diego-based brewery has chosen to go the route of employee ownership. Earlier today, Modern Times Beer announced that it has repurchased shares held by its initial investors and that 30% of shares will now be held in an employee stock ownership program (ESOP).

CEO Jacob McKean penned the announcement via the Modern Times blog noting, “This is my single proudest achievement as Founder & CEO of Modern Times. I’m supremely excited for our deserving employees, who have shown an almost perverse degree of dedication over the last 4 years. Now, they will benefit directly from the company’s success as co-owners. This is as it should be. Making Modern Times an employee-owned company gives me a sense of satisfaction that is somewhere beyond joy.”

Modern Times Taproom ESOP
Modern Times Beer Lomaland Taproom | Photo by Tristan Chan

Modern Times first opened in 2013 at their Point Loma, or Lomaland location, and has since expanded that facility to include a neighboring 7,800 sq foot warehouse for packaging, while also growing their production systems with 120 bbl fermenters and towering silos. In 2014 Modern Times aunched a second taproom and brewing facility in the North Park neighborhood dubbed The Flavordome and has since announced a new trio of facilities/tasting rooms in LA, Anaheim and Encinitas opening later this year.

“My hope is that this will point the way forward for other businesses in our industry and beyond,” said McKean. “Our trajectory shows that a company can grow at a meteoric rate while handsomely rewarding all of the people who made that growth possible; in fact, we show that it is necessary. Our values and culture are competitive advantages that have propelled us to where we are today. Modern Times is proof that a start-up brewery can compete and win in the craft beer market without selling out, all the while taking outstanding care of our employees and rewarding our investors. McKean continues in his blog post noting this move is aimed to invest in human resources and investing in a culture of employee ownership.

The ESOP decision further cements Modern Times’ vocal stance coming out in recent months against the slew of brewery acquisitions initiated by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Last September McKean penned a blog post titled: What Selling Out Is Actually About refuting points made by Aaron Goldfarb in a post for Serious Eats weighing the Pros and Cons for breweries to sell to big beer. Modern Times also weighed in when it was announced that ABI had purchased South African hop farms and were monopolizing those hops that were previously sold to a wide array of craft breweries.

Modern Times

And most recently came out in support for the BA’s Independence label:

Below is McKean’s full transcript announcing their current 30% ESOP transition as well as plans to eventually move to 100% employee ownership”

Modern Times, one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the country, is thrilled to announce that it is now employee-owned. Through the repurchase of shares held by outside investors, 30% of Modern Times is now held in an employee stock ownership plan. At only 4 years old, Modern Times has become the first brewery in the state of California to become employee-owned.

“This is my single proudest achievement as Founder & CEO of Modern Times,” said majority owner Jacob McKean. “I’m supremely excited for our deserving employees, who have shown an almost perverse degree of dedication over the last 4 years. Now, they will benefit directly from the company’s success as co-owners. This is as it should be. Making Modern Times an employee-owned company gives me a sense of satisfaction that is somewhere beyond joy.”

Employee ownership is a logical extension of the company’s existing values and culture. Modern Times fosters a highly collaborative work environment that prioritizes the well-being of its employees, continuous innovation, the exceptional quality of its beer and coffee, and an unwavering commitment to business ethics.

“My hope is that this will point the way forward for other businesses in our industry and beyond,” said McKean. “Our trajectory shows that a company can grow at a meteoric rate while handsomely rewarding all of the people who made that growth possible; in fact, we show that it is necessary. Our values and culture are competitive advantages that have propelled us to where we are today. Modern Times is proof that a start-up brewery can compete and win in the craft beer market without selling out, all the while taking outstanding care of our employees and rewarding our investors.”

With several ambitious projects on the horizon, including bastions of leisure and sundry weirdness in downtown Los Angeles and Anaheim, the move to employee ownership is also intended to help attract and retain exceptional talent. As the company opens groundbreaking new breweries, restaurants, and cafes, Modern Times will be both promoting existing employees and hiring new talent to staff the rapidly growing business.

“We already have very high employee retention, but becoming an employee-owned company will only make it more rewarding for talented people to build their careers here,” said McKean. “And I’m extremely excited to see the kinds of people we can attract with this equity program.”

Employee ownership is just the latest in a long list of stellar benefits offered by the company. Modern Times provides high-quality health care, very competitive salaries, unlimited paid time-off, a two-month paid sabbatical after five years, and a guaranteed take-home minimum wage of $15 per hour, along with loads of free beer & coffee.

While the company is 30% employee-owned today, it is the goal of Modern Times to work towards 100% employee ownership.

The Modern Times ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) transaction was made possible by the talented team at Ambrose Advisors, who facilitated the deal structure, valuation, and lender selection. Neil Brozen of Ventura ESOP Fiduciary Services has been retained as the Trustee and will oversee the ESOP in an independent role.


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