Silicon Pastures' investment in Sprecher Brewery Co. is not typical for the Wauwatosa-based angel investment group – and it also happens to be the group’s largest investment to date.
Specific terms of the transaction have not been disclosed publicly. But Sharad Chadha, the new CEO of Sprecher who leads the group that acquired the company, said Silicon Pastures is now "invested (in Sprecher) in a big way."
Founded in 1985 by Randy Sprecher, the company was recently purchasedby a local investment group, many of whom are Silicon Pastures members.
“It’s a step in a new direction for Silicon Pastures,” said Teresa Esser, Silicon Pastures managing director. “I guess it's acknowledging that the world is changing, and also that local ownership is important.”
Silicon Pastures is a network of angel investors who meet monthly to assess business proposals, share due diligence and collaborate on investing in transactions. The organization usually invests in companies that use technology to solve problems, or to organize, optimize and accelerate business processes.
Up until now, Silicon Pastures has focused solely on investing in early stage startups that fit its portfolio criteria.
“Normally, we take a minority stake in a startup business,” Esser said. “And this time, (the investment group, which includes several Silicon Pastures members) bought the whole thing. It was different in that way. Plus, it’s an older and more established company than the typical startup we usually invest in.”
The deal was part of the “opportunistic angle” of the investment group, Esser said. She and other investors saw Sprecher Brewery as a company with a lot of upside, including a strong brand, “a delicious product and a product that has potential to serve the growing global middle class,” Esser added.
As an investor, Esser said she would like to see Sprecher become a global brand by collaborating with other companies. Esser has ties with several South Korean entrepreneurs, one of whom developed a portable device that can turn a bottle, perhaps a Sprecher bottle, into a speaker.
"That's one of the things I want to do," Esser said. "Take it up a notch and make it high-tech."
Besides Chadha, who is a former executive at GE Healthcare, Samsung Electronics, ABB and Electrolux, other members of the new Sprecher ownership group include Andy Nunemaker, who will serve as chairman of the board; Peter Skanavis, the owner of Homeowner Concept Realtors, who will be a member of the company’s board. Brewing industry veteran and longtime MillerCoors marketing executive Jim Kanter is also part of the investor group and will be part of the company leadership team.
Chadha first proposed the Sprecher deal at one of Silicon Pastures’ eight formal dinner meetings, which is where the investment group hears pitches from business owners every year.
Even with Sprecher now in Silicon Pastures’ portfolio, the organization still plans to hold its annual dinner meetings where up to three different companies will pitch their business plans.
“Within that mandate, if two of those are startups and there’s a third that’s a wild card, we could also look at that wild card," Esser said. “That’s how Sprecher came to us.”