LONDON — Carlsberg has bought London Fields Brewery from its founder, who is being prosecuted for tax fraud.
Julian De Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson was charged last year for failing to pay a suspected £1 million in tax, following a raid on the brewery in 2014.
The Hackey-based craft brewery was founded in 2011 and gained a cult following for drinks such as Craft Lager and Easy IPA.
Carlsberg will operate the brewery in a joint venture with Brooklyn Brewery, in New York.
The sale follows craft brewers Camden Town Brewery’s sale in 2015 to AB InBev, the world’s biggest beer maker.
Whiteway-Wilkinson was jailed in 2004 for drug dealing, for which he still has to repay more than £3 million in criminal profits. He founded the brewery when he was released in 2009, and said he was intent on changing his life, building a successful business and repaying the money.
But an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) starting in 2014 found that Whiteway-Wilkinson and his wife, Rosie Spence, had failed to submit tax returns for the business or pay tax between 2012 and 2014. Prosecutor Timothy Godfrey said in January that this amounted to cheating HMRC out of £727,203.
According to company records, the brewery was founded in 2011 in partnership with Ian Burgess, owner of an east London’s cafe Climpson and Sons. But that partnership was shortlived because, Burgess told the Evening Standard, he and Whiteway-Wilkinson had fallen out.
The business was taken over by Whiteway-Wilkinson’s father Juan in January 2016, who was the beneficial owner and sole shareholder at the time of sale, according to company records.
“We’re thrilled to add London Fields Brewery to our growing portfolio,” said Carlsberg UK’s CEO Julian Momen. “We think that, with nurturing, London Fields Brewery has huge potential,” he said.
“We thank Julian for his work in establishing London Fields Brewerty and the creation of this exciting brand, and we wish him well in the future,” he added.
The case against Whiteway-Wilkinson and Spence is ongoing.