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BrewDog founder James Watt threatens to sue BBC over claims of inappropriate behaviour

·2-min read
BrewDog founder James Watt - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
BrewDog founder James Watt - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The founder of BrewDog is threatening to sue the BBC over claims the broadcaster obtained private information by “underhand means”.

James Watt is also pursuing legal action against the publicly owned broadcaster following a series of allegations in the BBC’s Disclosure documentary.

Former staff in the United States claimed Mr Watt made female staff feel “uncomfortable” and “powerless”.

The hour-long programme included a series of other allegations, including claims that Mr Watt had invested £500,000 in Heineken, the Dutch brewer that the entrepreneur has long criticised and belittled in marketing campaigns. It also questioned the integrity of BrewDog’s plans to be “carbon negative”.

In a statement to The Telegraph, Mr Watt said: “I hugely regret if some of my team in the US have felt uncomfortable around me and I am totally committed to making sure I am always mindful about how my presence in our bars is a positive for everyone.

“But the personal allegations made against me in the programme were utterly false, based on rumour and misinformation. So with reluctance, I need to take action to protect my reputation on the basis these claims are false and defamatory.”

He continued: “Legal action would be on the basis of the numerous false and defamatory statements in the broadcast.

“We are also considering raising additional proceedings on the publication of private personal financial information that we believe may have been obtained by underhand means. The BBC have refused to tell us how they obtained the private personal financial information.”

Twelve former BrewDog USA staff members made allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Mr Watt.

The claims included allegations that staff had witnessed the BrewDog founder kissing an intoxicated customer on a roof terrace bar and that female bartenders were advised how to avoid unwelcome attention from Mr Watt.

Mr Watt's lawyer told the BBC: "This is categorically denied. At no time has Mr Watt given unwelcome attention to any female bartender. That account is not true - this was fully investigated by Centric HC who concluded that there was no substance to these claims."

Meanwhile, one former employee was left dumbfounded by the programme’s allegations that Mr Watt owned a £500,000 stake in Heineken.

A BBC spokesman said: "We will defend our journalism. The documentary was fair and balanced and included responses from BrewDog’s lawyer. Mr Watt declined our offer to be interviewed for the programme."

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