Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Is Yuengling's owner a beer billionaire? (Update with links 3/7)

Forbes' list is full of holes

Is Yuengling's owner a beer billionaire? (Update with links 3/7)

City says Yuengling owes $6.6 million in taxes.
City says Yuengling owes $6.6 million in taxes.

(Adds link to estimate of Yuengling's value, Philly tax-deadbeat allegations)

Vitamin Y! Richard Yuengling, fifth-generation owner of the Pottsville brewery that bears his family's name, is worth $1.3 billion, reports the current Forbes magazine, putting him alongside Urban Outfitters' Richard Hayne (who's been plowing a slice of his earnings into his Chester County estate), and Campbell's Soup heiress Mary Alice Dorrance Malone (also of the Brandywine horse country) on the Philly area's short list of billionaires.

Yuengling is a billionaire... who doesn't pay his taxes, according to Philadelphia, which last month filed suit alleging the brewery owes $6.6 million in unpaid business levies.

How accurate is Forbes' list? In December, Bloomberg extrapolated Yuengling sales and earnings and estimated the value of the company at $1.8 billion. Though local observer Tom Paine of Philly Tech News tells us he's skeptical:"Beer multiples (are) usually not too high."

Yuengling is probably large enough to attract higher "strategic" industrial multiples from buyout firms, not the dime-a-dozen small-business valuations of a surplus microbrewery. It's also possible Pennsylvania's peculiar beer-distribution rule adds measurably to the value of the business Yuengling may someday leave behind for his five daughters or other successors.

The Comcast Roberts clan (old Ralph is a neighbor of Hayne and the Dorrances in the tax-protected hunt country conservation district) didn't make Forbes' list, though their stock holdings in the increasingly highly-valued video-distribution giant and their other diversified investments ought to qualify.

The du Ponts have finally diversified, divorced and divided too far for individual heirs to make the list. Plus the company, once America's most valuable, is now about the smallest of the Dow-Jones 30 Industrials.

Synthes boss Hansgeorg Wyss, still listed by Forbes as another Chester County billionaire, has in fact retired away from his longtime working ground to Wyoming and Switzerland and his beloved skiing, so far as we know. (Revised)

But there again: the annual Forbes list always brings back to me the memory of the former manager of one of Philadelphia's richest "family offices", who told me, back in 2000, that his boss "likes me and keeps me around because I've managed to keep Forbes from finding half his properties, and that's kept him off the Four Hundred."

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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