Milwaukee investors including Nunemaker, Kanter buy Sprecher Brewing Co., plan to scale operations

Friday, January 31, 2020
Nick Williams, Business Journal


NICK WILLIAMS - The group of investors is led by former GE Healthcare and Samsung executive Sharad Chadha, who will run the company as CEO.

A group of Milwaukee investors, including entrepreneur Andy Nunemaker and former MillerCoors executive Jim Kanter, have closed on a deal to acquire Sprecher Brewing Co. from founder and CEO Randy Sprecher and shareholders, according to a joint announcement from both parties.

The group of investors is led by former GE Healthcare and Samsung executive Sharad Chadha, who will run the company as CEO. Investors in the acquisition group include several Milwaukee investors, entrepreneurs and high-level executives such as Nunemaker, Peter Skanavis and Kanter, who left MillerCoors in August 2019 to help run a Milwaukee dental consulting firm.

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“Sharad’s offer presented the ideal opportunity," Sprecher said. "It was important to me that Sprecher stay locally owned. This has been my life’s passion for decades and I want to see the company thrive. With this talented and experienced group, I’m sure it will.”

Sprecher will continue as an investor with the new ownership group.

Sprecher opened Sprecher Brewing in 1985, the first brewery to open in Wisconsin since prohibition. The beverage maker's products are distributed in 25 states, including California and Florida, and is also available at several bars and restaurants. Known for its Sprecher Root Beer, the brand became the official root beer of the Milwaukee Brewers in February 2019. Sprecher is also the official root beer of the Wisconsin State Fair.

With the right investment, investors see immense potential to scale the brand nationally, and possibly internationally. 

"Much like Milwaukee, Sprecher Brewery is a little-known gem with a great future ahead of it," Chadha said. "Sprecher not only has a diverse portfolio – craft beer, soda, cider, hard seltzer and sparkling water – it also has the best tasting products in the industry. We want to capitalize on what Randy built and share these amazing beverages with as many people as possible. Sprecher Root Beer is the best root beer in America, and we have the potential to significantly grow the company.”

MillerCoors Milwaukee general manager Jim Kanter leads a toast to kick off Summerfest.
Enlarge - MillerCoors Milwaukee general manager Jim Kanter leads a toast to kick off Summerfest.

Sprecher's existing brand recognition, along with the potential of its future success, is what attracted Kanter, who said fans of the company's beverages can expect to "see a little more energy injected into the brand."

"Randy and his team, they are the godfather of craft beer in Wisconsin," he said.

The initially strategy is to boost sales and marketing efforts while adding more distribution partners, which is possible given its capacity to immediately increase production, Chadha said.

Fans shouldn’t expect any changes to logos and packaging in the near future, Chadha said. The strategy is to build on the core of the brand and improve packaging if need be. 

Down the road, renovation to the company’s taproom in Glendale is a possibility, he said. 

“I think this is a unique opportunity for Milwaukee and Wisconsin,” Chadha said. “The Midwestern quality and products is well known.”

This past year, Sprecher launched a nonalcoholic seltzer water line and announced it was joining the hard seltzer market with its WI Old Fashioned Hard Seltzer, its second hard seltzer. Sprecher is also known for its relationship with Milwaukee County Parks System for its traveling beer garden.

“This a cherished brand, and cherished icon in Milwaukee,” said Nunemaker, who previously worked with Chadha at GE Healthcare. “We’re excited to keep the ownership local and the company local.”

The existing executive team at Sprecher will remain, including president Jeff Hamilton, and all employees, Chadha said, adding he intends to hire new talent as well. Nunemaker will serve as chairman of the board, which will include Skanavis. Kanter will be a part of the leadership team, according to the announcement.

“Unlike many of the deals that have been announced in the last few years where there was often duplication of staff and facilities, the current employees are required to operate the company,” Hamilton said. “Employees, partners, suppliers, and customers will welcome this transition in ownership.”