Deschutes Brewery named Michael LaLonde the president and CEO of the company Wednesday, making a fact of what was true for more than six years.
LaLonde, who started with Deschutes as chief operating officer in 2005, effectively served as CEO since 2010, he said Wednesday. He said founder and Chairman Gary Fish announced LaLonde’s new title during employee meetings June 7 and June 9 in Bend and Portland. Fish was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
A company news release quoted Fish: “In reality, Michael has been serving in a CEO capacity for some time now, as he handles many aspects of strategic planning and daily operations of the company.”
LaLonde was point man on the Deschutes Brewery campaign to land a site for a new brewery in the eastern U.S., which culminated in March 2016 with an agreement to build an $85 million facility in Roanoke, Virginia. The search started with 110 potential sites before settling on a handful in the Southeast. LaLonde said engineering for the brewery is underway. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and brewing in 2021.
In the past 1½ years, the brewery has also invested about $18.2 million in Bend in six, 1,300-barrel fermentation tanks, a new racking line for filling kegs, a new warehouse and a new pilot brewing system.
Fish founded the brewery, now considered an original wellspring of brewing talent and growth in Central Oregon, as a brewpub in downtown Bend in June 1988. Last year, the Brewers Association ranked it the eighth largest craft brewery in the U.S. and the 15th overall. Its products are distributed in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Along the way, the company added a Portland brewpub and has plans for a tasting room in Roanoke.
Making the big decisions for the company has become more challenging as it’s grown, LaLonde said.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from Georgia State University and an MBA in international management from Thunderbird Global School of Management.
As CEO in all but name, he was visiting far-flung distributors and sales staff and working on the company vision and culture at home. Key to that culture is a stock ownership plan that gives employees a say in the company operation.
“It’s really important to continue to develop our culture and our engagement with our co-owners and have an additional level of collaboration and idea-generation with everyone here,” LaLonde said. “Our internal debate going forward will be really important.”
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