GRAND RAPIDS — Founders Brewing Co. has announced its new CEO just two weeks after one of its co-founders indicated he would be stepping away from the leadership position.
The Grand Rapids-based craft brewery announced today that Elton Andres Knight will take over as CEO immediately. Knight will take the position held by Mike Stevens, who co-founded Founders in 1997 along with partner Dave Engbers. Stevens retained his ownership in the company, and told MiBiz he plans to be an active member of the board.
Erik d’Auchamp was poised to serve in the CEO role on an interim basis. He is the director of international business for family-owned Spanish brewer Mahou-San Miguel Group, which purchased a majority stake in Founders in 2019.
Knight also has ties to Mahou: He was hired by the company in 2014 and has since assumed the role of CEO at Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo. Between 2017 and 2019, Mahou and Founders acquired a 70-percent stake of Avery Brewing, and Knight will continue his leadership role at Avery Brewing while guiding Founders during a transition period.
“I could not be more grateful to accept the position as CEO to this well-established and well-loved brewery,” Knight said in a statement today. “Founders employs an extremely talented team and has a long history of impressive innovation within the craft market. I’m honored for the opportunity to lead this exceptional company and to build on that momentum through 2022 and beyond.”
In a recent interview with MiBiz, Stevens explained why he opted to step away from Founders, an idea he originally entertained before the COVID-19 pandemic. Stevens acknowledged that, at Founders’ size, the company required an operational CEO, not necessarily an entrepreneurial one.
“But as your business matures, you get to a certain level where you typically outgrow that entrepreneurial CEO or founder,” Stevens said. “I knew that was coming and happening. At the scale we’re at, we need someone to get in there and be a daily operational CEO. Dotting I’s and crossing T’s has never really been my skill set.”
Founders brewed 592,000 barrels of beer in 2020, according to trade publication Brewbound. Per Brewers Association data, Founders was the 12th largest brewery in the country in 2020, the most recent year available.
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