Places of the past: Heileman Brewery

Places of the past: Heileman Brewery

From the Places of the past: An alphabetical look back at La Crosse area history series
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The Tribune is taking an A-to-Z look at La Crosse area history.

For a link to past installments, click here.


Here are some key dates in the history of G. Heileman Brewing Co.:

1858: Gottlieb Heileman and John Gund start City Brewery in La Crosse, which eventually became G. Heileman Brewing Co. Gund leaves in 1872 to form his own brewing company.

1878: Heileman dies at age 54, leaving his wife Johanna to take over the brewery. She dies in 1917.

1902: The company, which has made beer under the Golden Leaf label, introduces its Old Style Lager.

1933: The Heileman family sells the business to a group of investors.

1971: Russell Cleary begins his time as president, CEO and chairman of the board. During his tenure, the brewery grew from 15th-largest to fourth-largest in the nation through a series of acquisitions. At its peak in 1983, the brewery had more than $1.3 billion in sales with nearly $60 million in profits on shipments of more than 17 million barrels.

1973: Heileman is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1987: Australian brewer Alan Bond buys the publicly held company for $1.26 billion in a highly leveraged cash deal. A month later, the stock market crashes and so does Bond's financial empire, propped up by junk bonds.

1991: Struggling with a $1 billion debt, Heileman declares bankruptcy. It emerges later that year with a debt of $325 million.

1993: The Dallas-based investment firm of Hicks, Muse & Co. buys Heileman for $390 million and tries unsuccessfully to turn the company around.

1995: Pabst signs contract with Heileman to produce beer in La Crosse.

1996: Heileman goes through bankruptcy again as part of its $290 million sale to The Stroh Brewery Co.

1999: Jim Strupp and John Mazzuto purchase the former G. Heileman Brewery and renamed it City Brewery but quickly run into financial trouble.

2000: A group of 12 investors who live in the La Crosse area or have longtime ties to the brewery purchase City Brewery. The brewery continues to operate today.

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