C. Brewer & Co. Ltd., one of Hawaii’s oldest companies, hit the top 10 in 1983, the inaugural year of the Top 250, but it disappeared from our list after 2001. Two years ago, the shareholders of Buyco Inc., C. Brewer’s parent company, started to liquidate the company.
C. Brewer Chief Executive Officer for Operations Kent Lucien says the move has generated mixed feelings for many people. “On one hand it’s sad to see a company that has so much history change so dramatically,” says Lucien. “On the other hand, it’s absolutely the right business choice for all concerned.”
In 2001, C. Brewer had 15 business units and 90,000 acres of land. Today, the business consists of two operations, stevedoring in Hilo and the Hilo Coast Power Co., and land holdings are down to about 45,000 acres. In 1983, it ranked No. 9 with $315 million in gross sales. In 2000, the year before liquidation began, the company’s gross sales were $244 million. Last year, a much smaller C. Brewer had gross sales of $110 million.
Lucien says when the shareholders decided to liquidate, it became apparent that prospective acquirers of the conglomerate were planning to sell off C. Brewer’s diverse businesses. “We could make sure that the business units were sold to people who would continue the businesses as much as possible, so that the impact on employees would be a lot less. Instead of just merely turning it over to someone else, we decided to implement the plan to liquidate, and it’s worked out well so far.”
Many of the owners of former C. Brewer businesses are former C. Brewer executives, the most prominent of which is J. W. “Doc” Buyers. Buyers, the former long-time chairman and chief executive officer of C. Brewer, now owns many of the company’s Big Island operations, which he runs out of the former headquarters in Hilo, under the auspices of D. Buyers Enterprises LLC.
Lucien calls Buyers “A hugely strong personality and he did a lot to add to the heritage and the value of the businesses.”
It was Buyers who led the leveraged buyout of the former subsidiary of Maryland-based IU International private in 1986. The hui of local investors included Lucien, Morgan Stanley executive Paul Loo, former University of Hawaii president Fujio Matsuda and the owner of PacificBasin Communications, the company that publishes this magazine, Duane Kurisu.
Lucien says he cannot predict when all of the C. Brewer assets will be sold. He says, “We just have to see how it goes. C. Brewer, it’s possible, could continue for a number of years, albeit at a much smaller, more condensed size. There are some things that we either can’t sell or choose not to sell or its time may not be right to sell.”
C. BREWER & CO. LTD.
Rank ’83 1
Sales ’82 ($Mil) $315
Rank ’03 N/A
Sales ’02 ($Mil) N/A