One of the better-kept secrets in North Carolina business is how much AB InBev paid for Wicked Weed, the Asheville-based craft beer company. The sale caused a tizzy, with the N.C. Craft Brewers trade group evicting Wicked Weed as a voting member, disappointed that one of the state’s best-known beer startups was joining forces with the world’s largest beer conglomerate. Kind of like if the Clintons turned Republican.
But building and selling a business is old hat for the Guthy family, which founded Wicked Weed in 2012 with beer experts Walt and Luke Dickinson. Californians Bill Guthy and Greg Renker helped pioneer the motivational-tape industry starting in the 1970s, later helping Tony Robbins become an international star. A spinoff created a huge direct-marketing empire, with its bestseller being teen anti-acne favorite Proactiv. Guthy-Renker has had a series of owners over the years, including Goldman Sachs, with Bill Guthy remaining co-chairman.
In the late ‘80s, Guthy’s brother Rick moved to North Carolina to run Guthy-Renker’s distribution center in Enka near Asheville. That’s where he and his wife, Denise, and son Ryan teamed up with the Dickinson brothers, leading to the development of Wicked Weed. The initial investment was $2 million, according to Capital At Play, an Asheville-based online newsletter. It now has four sites in Asheville and produces more than 150 different beers a year.
“Wicked Weed is redefining what sophistication in beer can mean,” says Felipe Szpigel, president of AB InBev’s The High End division for fancy beers. Let’s raise a glass to sophistication — and the Guthys’ business savvy.