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New owner may not be able to sell the old man?s beer

BY CRAIG GILBERT craig@northernlife.ca William Sharpe, the founder and former boss at Lakeport Beverage Corporation, could be the mystery person interested in buying cash-strapped Northern Breweries.
BY CRAIG GILBERT

William Sharpe, the founder and former boss at Lakeport Beverage Corporation, could be the mystery person interested in buying cash-strapped Northern Breweries.

CBC Radio?s Morning North reported Monday it heard from an ?inside source? that Sharpe is the buyer.

Mayor Dave Courtemanche announced last week a business interest intends to pour $10 million into the plant and eventually hire 80-100 people.
The city has agreed to waive the $640,000 Northern owes in back property taxes in order to cement the deal.

Officials at city hall and Northern?s head office in Sault Ste. Marie aren?t talking. A local employee said Sharpe and an associate toured the century-old plant less than a month ago.

At least two other tours of the plant were given, the employee said. Others have simply pulled up and taken pictures.

But it?s still all rumours, guesswork and waiting for the plant?s 11 unionized and three staff employees.

Allen Sneath, author of Brewed In Canada: The Untold Story of Canada?s 350-Year-Old Brewing Industry, said Sharpe is more of a broker than a buyer.

?He doesn?t have $10 million, so he must have backers or investors of some kind (if he is the buyer),? he said. ?He always looks for angles in business.?

He called Northern?s canning line ?antique.?

?That money would have to go into the machinery.?

Further, the company is losing ground in its home (and effectively its only) market.

?People don?t buy history, they buy the liquid in the bottle and whatever marketing is attached to it,? he said.

?Sharpe and his partners would have to bring new life to the bricks and mortar of the plant with a new product line, keeping one or two brands for nostalgia?s sake.?

The new generation, which consumes more beer than their parents, wants to break away from ?the old man?s beer,? he said.

Northern doesn?t have much of a chance against the marketing expertise of Molson or Labatt when it comes to being part of that decision, he said.

?The young guys will latch on to whatever?s hip and has the most bikini-clad women in their commercials.?





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