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CEO Suffers Massive Hit Following 'Solid Gold’ Beer Can Controversy

His Willy Wonka competition went awry.

A CEO is out over $500,000 of his own money after a competition featuring supposed solid gold beer cans went awry. The controversy involves James Watt, the CEO and co-founder of BrewDog, a brewery and pub chain based in Scotland.

Watt took to LinkedIn to own up to the mistake. In his post, he mentioned the source of the dispute, which involved a Willy Wonka-esque competition. 

In 2020, BrewDog hid 50 special beer cans in cases for customers to find. These cans were said to be made from solid gold and valued at approximately $18,000. Customers who found the golden cans became eligible to keep the can, win over $12,000 of BrewDog shares and receive a VIP tour of BrewDog’s brewery. 

Unfortunately for Watt, he said he got so carried away in the excitement of the project that he made some costly mistakes.

While it was believed that the cans were made from solid gold, they were only gold-plated and mainly made of brass. Watt said he misunderstood the process and incorrectly referred to the cans as “solid gold” on Twitter. 

Disgruntled winners reached out to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an advertising regulator in the UK. Some of BrewDog’s ads stated that the cans were 24-carat, which the World Gold Council defines as pure gold with no other metals. 

However, the ASA said it understood the prize included 24-carat gold-plated replica cans and concluded the ads were misleading. 

Watt said he reached out to the 50 winners and personally offered them the full cash amount as an alternative. Once the dust settled, Watt suffered around a $571,000 hit. 

But, he said he is now the proud owner of 40 gold cans, but not solid gold.  

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