Sunday, 8 January 2012

McEwan goes public

In the late 1880's and 1890's there was a mad rush for breweries to change from private companies to public ones. They were prompted by the success of Guinness, whose flotation in the 1880's was massively over-subscribed.

McEwan was one of the first Scottish breweries to go public. Though, as in the case of most other Scottish breweries, the family who had formerly owned the brewery kept control.

It seems there were some surprising subscribers to McEwan's share issue:

It will he remembered (says a correspondent of the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch) that when the announcement was first made that Mr William McEwan was about to convert his extensive brewery business into a Limited Liability Company, there was a general rush for shares. It has now transpired that an immense number of the "trade" have secured shares. The largest holders of the preference shares of £10 are Lord Rosebery and Mr J. A. Molleson, C.A., Edinburgh, each of whom holds 1000, while Lord Rothschild holds 500. Mr Thomas Aitken, of the London and Edinburgh Shipping Company, has 750, and Mr. T. R. Buchanan, M.P. who is a supporter of Local Option, has 100. Mr Shiress Wills, another Scottish M.P. who is supposed to favour Local Option, holds 50. Lord Provost Boyd. Edinburgh, is the owner of 100 shares : his son, Mr William Boyd, W.S., has 50; and Sir James King, ex-Lord Provost of Glasgow, has 200. Viscount Bridport holds 425 ; Sheriff Crichton, 50 ; Sir George Balfour, K.C.B., holds 250 ; Professor Sir William Turner, 200: Mr David Turnbull, W.S., 250; Mr J. M. McCandlish, W.S., 100; Mr James Macdonald, S.S.C., 100 ; Mr J. H. Buchanan, C.A., 300 ; and the other principal shareholders are lawyers, bankers, and professional men in Edinburgh and throughout the country. At least one prominent local teetotaller, who occasionally makes himself conspicuous as an opponent of the drink traffic, is not above profiting by the evil thing, Councillor D. Miller Dunlop, hatter, North Bridge, Edinburgh, holding 100 shares. All the 50,000 ordinary shares are held by the Board, Mr McEwan retaining -43,000 in his own hands ; 5000 being allocated to Mr William Younger, managing director; 1000 to Mr Robert Younger, barrister. London; 500 to Mr William Hunter, secretary of the Company ; and 500 to Mr J. A. Molleson, C.A."
Dundee Courier - Wednesday 15 January 1890, page 4.

I should explain what the "local option" was. That was the idea to allow areas to vote on becoming dry. Something along those lines was later passed and some parts of Glasgow became dry. So it's odd that an M.P. who supported such a temperance move would buy shares in a brewery. Maybe he was hedging his bets.

Councillor Dunlop, the teetotaller, is even worse. Campaigning against the drink trade yet buying brewery shares seems rather hypocritical.

I'm starting to realise just how common some surnames are in Scotland. Ones like Aitken and Younger. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion  that Robert and William Younger weer connected with the breweries of those names, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

I'm pretty sure the ordinary shares were the only ones with voting rights. By keeping all of them, the board remained in total control. The share issues of other Scottish breweries were similar, with preference shares being flogged off to the public and the ordinary shares being held by the owners.

No comments: