La Crosse brewery may be saved

Investment firm signs letter of intent to buy former Heileman plant

July 20, 1999 - Workers at a La Crosse, Wis., brewery due to be closed in August have new hope the brewery will remain in operation. A New York investment firm announced it intends to buy the former G. Heileman brewery from Stroh Brewery Co. and use it for producing beverages, possibly including beer, on a contract basis.


A spokeswoman for Stroh confirmed a letter of intent has been signed. Platinum Holdings, a New York-based investment company owned by La Crosse native James Strupp and John Mazzuto, plans to buy the brewery. "We see a real opportunity for success here, to continue manufacturing a variety of products, including beer, on a contractual basis, as well as diversifying into other beverages like water, juices and the like," Mazzuto said in a news release.

Stroh bought the G. Heileman Brewing Co. plant in 1996 and announced in February it was leaving the beer business, selling its brands to Miller and Pabst.

Mark Johnsrud, a La Crosse City Council member who serves on a task force formed when Stroh announced it intended to close the brewery, indicated cautious optimism. "It looks like we can keep it here," Johnsrud said. "It's very early, but it looks like this is the first step in the process. An offer to purchase is what they'll be working on next."

The brewery's 500 workers were recently laid off temporarily due to a lack of the carbon dioxide necessary for brewing. The workers were off for a week but are scheduled to be laid off permanently Aug. 8, Johnsrud said.

Meanwhile, European beer companies toured the brewery this week. German beer executives and representatives of the Polish government visited La Crosse at the invitation of La Crosse County and the Wisconsin Counties Association.

Volker Kannacher, general manager of the Aldersbacher brewery in Aldersbach, Germany, said his company might hire the plant to produce some of his company's beer but is not interested in buying the property.

Dariusz Wojcik, representing the Lublin area in Poland's parliament, said officials of two Polish brewing companies are thinking about having their brands brewed in La Crosse.

"There was no discussion about buying companies," Wojcik said through an interpreter. "There were discussions about selling a trademark and these kind of issues."

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