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Family ownership buoys beer and pub business

Family-controlled Shepherd Neame, the UK’s oldest brewer, reckons that being a family business has bolstered its earnings during a difficult economic period.

Family-controlled Shepherd Neame, the UK’s oldest brewer, reckons that being a family business has bolstered its earnings during a difficult economic period.

Fifth-generation Jonathan Neame told CampdenFB: “At a time of recession, we have been able to steer the business well due to our long-term thinking on how to invest in alignment with market trends.”

The Kent-based family business saw revenues for the year ending 25 June rise by 5% to £121.3 million (€140 million) from £115 million the year before.

“As a family, we are passionate about what we do and what we produce. There is always an inherent sense of longevity, which helps during tough times,” said Neame.

Famous for beer brands such as Spitfire and Bishops Finger, and lagers including Asahi Super Dry which is produced under licence, the brewer and pub operator said profits before tax increased by almost 10% to £8 million.

Neame attributed the positive results to three factors. “We are doing well with our premium bottled beer division; our licensed beer operations have also grown, as has the company’s food and accommodation business,” he said.

Shepherd Neame, which received private bank Coutts’ family business award last year, also saw its beer volumes rise by 4% during fiscal 2011, at a time when the overall volume of beer consumed in the UK declined by 7%.

“There are many challenges – the business has been impacted by changes in social behaviour and the smoking ban imposed in 2007. We’ve also been hit by the increase in excise duty on beverages, but we are confident about future growth,” said Neame.

The business, founded in 1678 by Richard Marsh, has been run by descendents of Percy Beale Neame since he joined the company in 1864. The family currently controls the company by holding 86% of voting rights.

Neame serves as chief executive, while his father Robert, also known as Bobby, retired from the board in 2006 and is now chairman of the pension trust. Non-family Miles Templeman is chairman of the board.

Shepherd Neame currently operates more than 350 pubs and hotels in south-east England.

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