Tribe announces relaunch with clean slate

Tribe Breweries has emerged from its voluntary administration with a new owner and newly appointed CEO.

In a media statement, the brewer advised that former General Manager, Partner Brewing, Heath Baker, had been appointed CEO and that the company has now been able to successfully restructure its financial position with “clear and committed ownership and set a new path forward for their organisation”.

Baker, a chartered accountant by background, joined Tribe from Coca Cola two months before the business went into voluntary administration.

Baker said that while he was aware the business had gone through operational challenges when he joined it at the beginning of this year, he wasn’t aware of the financial challenges.

“It’s well documented in the stuff that came out in Administration that there were operational issues here, that have all been rectified now,” he said.

“I was aware of all that. And I was aware that the business was potentially going to be sold.

“But certainly I was not aware that we were going to go into a VA and I don’t even I don’t think that [then] current management were either.”

He said that one of the challenges the former business faced was it may have been too ambitious.

“If you look at the way we were set up, and look at what we’ve done as a result of VA, the business was trying to set itself up for aggressive growth,” Baker said.

“And I think there was just a mismatch, I guess, between our ambition and our finances.

“It takes a long time to get things right in beer when you’re starting up and particularly when you’re growing your own brands and trying to make others at the same time. It’s just challenging.”

Looking forward with a clean balance sheet

Baker said that following the voluntary administration-driven restructure, the company is more streamlined with a better focus.

“First and foremost, the VA process has effectively cleaned up the balance sheet, which is really important,” he said.

“And then you think about the huge losses, we’ve pretty much tried to clean up everything we can that was generating those losses for the business.”

He said the company had closed its Sydney barrel room, reduced its SKUs from 60 to 20 and reduced its sales force.

“So it’s just focusing on the things that that are our bread and butter from a brand’s perspective,” he said.

“As a result, the objective for brands is to break even going forward. And we’ve got a pretty good handle on how we do that.”

Partner brewing core to the business

While the streamlined business will retain some of its own brands, Baker said its contract brewing business was its core business.

“Ultimately, we’re a partner brewing business, right? So just focus on partner brewing,” he said

“We absolutely have some brands, and we will respect them, and we will do the right things by them. But it’s got to be partner brewing.”

He acknowledged that the contract brewing market had become increasingly competitive since the former Brewpack business rebranded as Tribe in 2018 and expanded to its current Goulburn site.

“And that is a challenge for us,” he agreed. “But what we are doing with our current base of partner brewing customers is we are showing them that we feel we have a clear difference to some of those other competitors,” he said.

“Competitors will always push you on price, they’ll always do that. Because there’s got to be competitive tension, and they want to win the work that we’ve got.

“But we’re backing ourselves on our quality and our fulfillment, and we went through the VA period and we didn’t let a single customer down.

“Our fulfillment and our ability to get out the door quickly is really important to our customers”

New owner with a curious past

The media release announcing the relaunch of the business highlighted its new major shareholder is the Elsie Cameron Foundation, a charitable trust based in Tasmania.

The foundation, started by Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron, was one of Tribe’s noteholders when it went into voluntary administration. It emerged as owner after entering into a Deed of Company Arrangement with other creditors, including suppliers.

Senior Business Reporter at The Australian, Eli Greenblat, has described Ms Cameron as “a mysterious character in Australian retail and investment circles”.

The foundation itself has an interesting investment history, drawing headlines over a battle for infant milk formula company Bellamy’s, that included riveting tales of a mysterious Caribbean-controlled company called The Black Prince Foundation that the multi-millionaire had distanced herself from, and a court battle with the Australian Tax Office.

For his part, Baker says the foundation’s ownership has been beneficial.

“I think if you look at any high net worth individual, you’re probably going to find some sort of media about them,” he said.

“But from our perspective, ECF has been great. They’ve given us clarity, they’ve given us comfort and it’s really good to do business with one set of owners who are here to support you.”

He said that the prior structure had been more complicated.

“It’s making my life a lot easier because prior management had to deal with multiple parties with multiple opinions and multiple challenges,” he said.

“The good thing is I’m now working for one general business that I answer to, the representatives of Elsie Cameron and they’re really clear on what they want, they’re really clear on how they want to work with us.”

Grateful to suppliers

Tribe’s suppliers were among the creditors that voted to accept just five cents in the dollar as part of the deed of company arrangement.

Tribe’s size and the scale of its debts had a significant impact on the industry with a flow-on effect for many suppliers, with several telling Brews News it has seen them tightening their credit terms for all breweries.

Baker said that he was extremely grateful to suppliers for their support.

“Without our suppliers we would not be here,” he said.

“Right through the VA process, whilst our customers obviously drive our ability to exist, without our suppliers we couldn’t have provided anything to those customers.

“When we first entered VA, it was a case of how are we going to keep supply. We had a daily war room where we would literally talk to all our major suppliers to keep them on board.

“They backed us to come out of this, we backed ourselves to come out of it, and they were just great.

There were plenty of moments of frustration through the process, but as a group, our suppliers were great.

“Coming out of VA now for us, it’s really about repaying the faith that they showed us. And particularly making sure that you we can we just continue to grow because if we can continue to grow, we will repay that faith back to them.”

Media Release

Tribe Breweries announces new ownership and CEO

Australian independent brewing company – Tribe Breweries – announce they are no longer in voluntary administration, as they welcome in their new owner.

Tribe Breweries’ major shareholder is now the Elsie Cameron Foundation, a charitable trust based in Tasmania. This announcement is also supplemented by the appointment of Tribe Breweries’ new Chief Executive Officer, Heath Baker, who will manage the organisation’s day-to-day corporate operations as they make the transition out of voluntary administration and resume innovative projects out of their brewery in Goulburn.

Baker, who joined the Tribe Breweries team earlier this year, brings with him over twenty-five years of corporate drinks and brewery experience across major brands, including Coca-Cola Europacific Partners as their Head of International Alcohol.

Exiting voluntary administration in late May, Tribe Breweries has now been able to successfully restructure its financial position with clear and committed ownership and set a new path forward for their organisation and the key brands they produce, including Stockade, Mornington Peninsula Brewery and Wilde Gluten Free.

Partner Brewing will continue to be the driving force behind Tribe Breweries’ revitalisation, with a focus on creativity, innovation and supporting the local Goulburn community.

CEO Heath Baker says, “The completion of the administration process marks a fresh start for Tribe Breweries. We are extremely proud that despite this challenge, we maintained supply to all of our customers throughout the process and now with the business on renewed footing, this enables us to provide more certainty for our employees, customers and suppliers.

“We are excited to be able to refocus on our long-term growth and efficiency plans and move forward with our team, suppliers and customers from our Goulburn Brewery.”

Tribe Breweries are now committed to ensuring all partners and suppliers feel supported during this phase of transition, so any enquiries are to be directed to the customer service team at

About Tribe Breweries

Tribe Breweries was founded in 2012 to support independent craft brewers across Australia. The brewery based in Goulburn, in the Southern Highlands of NSW, is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built brewery with a current capacity of 30 million litres PA.

Tribe Breweries operate within the largest and most sophisticated craft beverage production facility of its kind in Australia. The facility boasts best-in-class brewing, packaging and beverage processing technology for cans, bottles and kegs, and has the broad capabilities to serve the emerging craft beer, RTD, seltzer and non-alcoholic markets for Tribe and its partners in both the domestic and export markets.

Tribe Brands is a collective of award-winning craft beer brands including Stockade, Mornington Peninsula and Wilde Gluten Free.

About the Elsie Cameron Foundation

The Elsie Cameron Foundation (ECF) is a charitable trust based in Tasmania. ECF operates a diverse investment portfolio with the objective of driving those investment opportunities to then enable ongoing philanthropic donations supporting a wide range of environmental initiatives, primarily in Tasmania.

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