Rob Murray Hawke's Brewing

Why Rob Murray returned to the beer industry

November 6, 2019
By Alana House

Former Lion chief executive Rob Murray has revealed why he’s stepped in as Chair of Hawke’s Brewing Co.

Murray ran Lion for eight years until 2012 and is currently also Chairman of Metcash and a Non Executive Director at Super Retail Group, Southern Cross Austereo and Linfox.

A few weeks before the brewing company’s namesake Bob Hawke died he asked Murray to get involved in the business.

“Near the end he asked me if I would get involved and help the guys,” Murray told the Australian Financial Review.

Murray said he had steered clear of the beer industry until now, but had been drawn back by his friendship with Hawke. 

“I knew Bob well, having worked with him on the board of the Bestest charity for over a decade,” Murray told Beer & Brewer. “This is a rare opportunity to work with the Hawke’s team and help them achieve success in Bob’s name, in a market that I am passionate about.”

Hawke’s Brewing Co is a venture launched by former creative directors Nathan Lennon and David Gibson in 2017.

Prior to establishing their beer brand, the pair enjoyed an illustrious career in the advertising industry, including six years at Publicis Mojo and Lowe, where they helped lead high profile accounts including James Boag’s Beer and Football Federation Australia, winning gold in Cannes along the way.

They pitched the idea to Hawke about getting involved in the venture in the kitchen of his Northbridge home in Sydney in early 2016.

Hawke didn’t want a financial interest in the company, but requested that a royalty go in perpetuity to Landcare Australia to help environmental projects.

“We initially didn’t expect Rob to come on in an official capacity,” Lennon told Beer & Brewer. “We’d hoped that we could occasionally seek his advice in some kind of mentor capacity. But after a few more catch-ups, Rob started talking about Hawke’s in terms of ‘we’ instead of ‘you’.

“It became clear that he felt invested in the journey. Rob loved that David and I had given up everything to get this business off the ground and I think, like us, he also wanted to help look after Bob’s legacy. It’s a personal thing for all of us. We’re making decisions from the heart just as much as the head.

“David and I are still in the weeds of the business, wearing multiple hats, and even still out on the road doing sales calls. So it’s important to have someone of Rob’s calibre who can stand back from afar and see the things we can’t.”

Hawke's Brewing

There are currently three beers in the Hawke’s Brewing family: Hawke’s Lager, which won the 2018 AIBA trophy for Best Australian Style Lager; Hawke’s Patio Pale, which won Gold at the 2018 AIBAs in the American Style Pale Ale category; and the new Underdog, an easy-drinking pale ale.

The beers are sold in about 1000 outlets in Sydney and Canberra, with sales more than doubling in the past year.

The company is currently capital raising up to $5 million to build a brewery and hospitality venue in Sydney that will pay homage to the former Prime Minister.

According to the AFR, the venue will have a ”pool room” feel, decorated with memorabilia that documents Hawke’s life.

Sites in Sydney’s inner west are being examined as potential locations.

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