Alastair Mowat, the former Scottish & Newcastle stalwart, has died at the age of 77.
Alastair was a well-known face in Scotland’s brewing industry, having joined Scottish & Newcastle in the early 1960s. He was responsible for marketing flagship brand, Newcastle Brown Ale in America and was integral in fending off a takeover of S&N in 1987.
Alastair originally joined FMCG giant Unilever in Hull in 1960, but joined S&N’s marketing department after a chance meeting his father had with brewing supremo Sir William McEwan on a train en route to a rugby match. Sir William had read something authored by Alastair, and quickly hired him. He quickly rose through the ranks to be in charge of the company’s managed pubs division by 1975. At that point, he was appointed to the board and partnered then chief executive, Sir Alec Rankin, in developing the company into an international brewing and spirit company. In 1985 Mowat spearheaded a deal with Harp lager to expand the brand’s sales in Scotland, which marked the beginning of his involvement in several ground-breaking deals by the brewer. In 1991 it purchased Finnish brewer Hartwell for £1.2 billion, giving S&N joint ownership of Russia’s largest brewer, Baltika, as well as Carlsberg. Four years later, S&N set its sights on England-based Courage, making the Scottish brewer a major player.
In 1995, he retired from S&N and used his considerable experience to establish the pub group, Pub Estate Company, with a vast portfolio of 500 pubs and bars in England and Scotland. From 1997 until 2001, he was chief executive of the Caledonian Brewery, which had been the subject of a management buyout by Russell Sharp – who he was to go on to work with. In 2003, along with other senior executives (including Sharp) from Scotland’s brewing industry, he formed Innis & Gunn, the original Scottish craft brewer, marketing a specific single beer matured in oak casks.
Although he was born in Bournemouth in 1939, Alastair felt as Scottish as his father – who was from Sutherland. Mowat senior – after being invalided out of the army – returned to Scotland when Alastair was six to run the Home Guard in Peebles during the Second World War. Alastair attended The Edinburgh Academy, where he was in the first XV. He read history and philosophy at Edinburgh University – qualifying at the age of 16 – where he continued to excel at rugby playing scrum-half for the Edinburgh Academicals. This love of sport and Scotland saw him raising the funds to send the Scottish team to the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1989.
Alastair was much respected around Edinburgh, well known for his love of jazz (he was a keen drummer). This led him to be one of the co-founders of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and an enthusiastic supporter of the Edinburgh Book Fair in Charlotte Square. Alastair’s sharp intellect and his astute business brain gave him the capacity for long working schedules, which saw him starting work at dawn.
Alastair Mowat is survived by his wife Alison and their son and daughter. He passed away peacefully on the 17th March.