In a shocking announcement Wednesday afternoon, Larry Bell said he'll be retiring and selling his eponymous brewery to Australian brewer Lion, which two years ago bought New Belgium Brewing in Colorado.

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Saying after discussion with both his daughter Laura, and with the board of directors, Bell decided to sell to New Belgium, which he says is similar both in it's values and business direction. New Belgium's CEO, Steve Fechheimer, a Michigan native, said in the Detroit News this acquisition puts the two breweries at the top of the domestic craft beer market.

“This decision ultimately came down to two determining factors - first, the folks at New Belgium share our ironclad commitment to the craft of brewing and the community-first way we’ve built our business. Second, this was the right time. I’ve been doing this for more than 36 years and recently battled some serious health issues. I want everyone who loves this company like I do to know we have found a partner that truly values our incredible beer, our culture, and the importance of our roots here in Michigan.” - Larry Bell

 

Time to Retire

In a video presentation, Bell's said he expects beer to be brewed in Comstock for another 100 years.

(Lambert via Vimeo)

Bell alluded to the health issues he's dealt with in the past few years as being a factor it was time to move on. That and daughter Laura Bell left the management team several years ago. While he's cashing in, Bell says he's not leaving Kalamazoo and hopes to share a pint with locals.

Bell also mentioned he's been in the beer business for almost 40 years, having incorporated in 1983. He says he still finds the business fun and challenging, but that it was time to retire. He said in his video he doesn't expect changes. To that end, Bell’s Executive Vice President Carrie Yunker, an 18-year veteran with Bell’s, will continue to lead day-to-day operations for the brand, reporting to Fechheimer and joining the combined company’s leadership team. VP of Operations John Mallett, who has been with Bell’s for over 20 years, will join the leadership team to focus on integrating the two brewing organizations.

Bell's currently has over 500 employees and distributes in 43 states, quite a jump from a one man operation and a 15 gallon soup kettle.

It was fitting that in his farewell video, Bell wore a "Solsun" t-shirt under his sports coat. Solsun was the original name of Oberon, before a legal kerfuffle forced a name change.

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