By Chris Furnari
Craft Brew Alliance today announced the hiring of longtime beverage industry veteran Christine Perich, who will take over as the company’s chief financial and strategy officer on April 1.
Perich spent more than 16 years with New Belgium Brewing, serving as CEO, COO and CFO during that time. Over the last six months, she consulted for Owl’s Brew, which makes boozy teas and cocktail mixers and is partially owned by Anheuser-Busch’s ZX Ventures unit. Prior to that, she served as the CEO of World Waters, makers of WTRMLN WTR, but stepped down from her role due to personal health reasons.
“We are thrilled to welcome Christine into the CBA family,” said Andy Thomas, the CEO of CBA, via a press release. “Her extensive industry, finance and leadership experience, combined with her passion for people and culture, will be invaluable as we continue steering CBA forward in today’s changing market.”
Thomas, who had been searching for a new CFO since last July, when Joseph Vanderstelt departed the organization, told Brewbound that he had reconnected with Perich at a beer industry conference last November when a “light bulb went off.”
“I started thinking that we had an opportunity to bring Christine in, not just to be our head of finance, but to help lead the company into this next chapter of ours,” he said.
Perich, who will be based out of her home in Fort Collins, Colorado, said her “first job” would be to “understand what is going on, and get to know people.”
“I am going to do a lot of listening and learning,” she said. “Then I’ll be diving into the strategy and helping move that along.”
Asked how her experience as the CEO of a brewery and non-alcoholic beverage company would inform the types of decisions she makes at CBA, Perich said she looks forward to being a “right hand” to Thomas and helping him “grow the business.”
“My bread and butter is finance — that’s where I grew up,” she said. “I view the business through the financials and make calculated choices. The strategy umbrella gives me the opportunity to lean in differently, more than a CFO would.”
For his part, Thomas said he “values and respects” individuals, such as Perich, who have “strong personalities.”
“The first time I was on stage with Christine, it was clear that we both had an opinion on things,” he said. “We look at things, and consider the same factors, and even if we don’t arrive at the same place, we are thoughtful. And that’s empowering to me.”
Perich joins CBA at a time when larger beer companies are increasingly naming female leaders to key executive positions.
Earlier this week, Boston Beer Company hired Lesya Lysyj, the current U.S. president of Welch’s Foods Inc., as its new CMO.
In January, MillerCoors named Michelle St. Jacques, who had previously served as the global head of brands and capabilities at The Kraft Heinz Company, as its CMO.
And last September, Heineken’s Maggie Timoney took over as the CEO of the international beer maker’s U.S. division, becoming the first female executive to lead a top-five U.S. beer company in the process.
Asked last September by National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) CEO Craig Purser what “different perspective” she brings to the beer industry, Timoney said she would be judged on her results, not her gender.
Perich had a similar response when asked about the significance of a male-dominated industry finally seeing more females executives.
“A woman should be at the table because she is qualified, not because of her gender,” she said.
Men are overwhelmingly in key decision-making positions at the country’s largest beer companies, and Perich said she is an advocate of a more “balanced” approach.
“I don’t think if you have all men or all women, you get the best results,” she said.
For his part, Thomas said he believes the industry is playing “catch-up” and that more companies should take a more serious look at the “diversity of thought” among c-suite employees.
“The color or gender that comes with ‘diversity of thought’ is more sincere than if you start with the color of someone’s skin or gender itself,” he said. “We are decades behind in terms of understanding who consumers are, or what’s on their minds. We are starting to understand that people’s experiences lead them to think differently, and the more we can do to match those desires, the better off we will be.”
In an SEC filing, CBA outlined the details of Perich’s employment agreement, which is slated to end on December 31, 2020. She will receive an annual base salary of $290,000 throughout her 21-month term, and be eligible for bonuses equal to 65 percent of her annual base salary. She will also receive a $37,700 signing bonus and $65,250 worth of fully-vested common stock on April 1.