A good sport

It happens all the time. Just when you find that perfect restaurant, little-known bar, great shop or favorite beer, the company goes out of business.

That’s what happened to C. David Snyder, former owner of Realogic and now chairman and CEO of Snyder International Brewing Group LLC.

“I saw that Crooked River (Brewing Co.) was in bankruptcy,” he says. “It happened to be the beer I drank. So, it seemed natural to help.”

Consider it a dramatic change of direction for Snyder, who had spent his career working as a consultant with some of the top firms in the nation, including Arthur Andersen and Cooper & Lybrand. After that, he founded and sold two companies, and in the early ’90s, launched Realogic, a local IT consulting firm.

Two weeks before Realogic was scheduled to go public, Snyder and his partners received a phone call that set in motion the changes.

“We got an offer, one of those offers you couldn’t refuse,” he says. “And it was time to sell.”

The sale was supposed to allow Snyder time to relax, but instead, he found himself with too much time and some extra money in his pocket — a dangerous combination for a man who had no plans to truly slow down, let alone retire.

“I’m one of those guys that will probably do something until the bitter end,” he says.

Snyder may be wishing for that end to come sooner rather than later on Feb. 18, when he’ll be the guest of honor at “An Evening of Good Sport Networking,” a roast to raise funds for Junior Achievement.

Snyder agreed to the roast, presented by the Cleveland Crunch and sponsored by SBN Magazine because, “It’s a worthy cause and it sounds like fun.”

The event begins with a 3:05 p.m. Crunch game, followed by a cocktail hour from 6 to 7 p.m., then dinner and the roast at 7 p.m. Tickets are $250 a plate, $2,000 for a table of 10.

Snyder admits there’s a difference between beer brewing and IT consulting.

“It is a different part of the brain,” he says. “It is business-to-consumer and is different because now you have wholesalers and retailers that are selling your beer — you don’t control all of your revenue.”

When Snyder assumed the reins of the faltering brewery, he brought with him time-tested business principles to turn it around. He retained most of the brew staff, but developed a new marketing plan and orchestrated a long-range plan for consolidation within the industry.

“You can’t be a $1 million to $2 million brewery today and make any money,” Snyder says. “It costs too much to run an ad or invest in infrastructure. That’s why you are seeing a tremendous amount of consolidation. I had no idea at the time that we were going to get into the beer business. I saw what was happening with the consolidation and I thought it would be good for a roll-up strategy.”

Over the past two-and-a-half years, Snyder’s been in acquiring mode, snapping up Cincinnati’s Hudephol/Schoenling Brewing — maker of Little King’s beer — and buying a 51 percent stake in the Fredrick, Md.-based Fredrick Brewing Company, a public company known for brewing beer using hemp seeds.

But beer alone isn’t enough to satisfy Snyder.

“I’m not a 40-hour-a-week guy,” he says. “I could probably hold down a couple of jobs.”

And that he does, but on his own terms. Snyder has invested in a number of technology firms nationwide, including Digital Atoms, which is headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area.

“With the exception of beer, it (technology and consulting) is really all I have done,” he says. “I have developed a reputation for it, and there were a lot of people who were asking me to get back in. I had a lot of people twisting my arm.”

Snyder’s arm was twisted enough that he founded a technology consulting firm in Cleveland called Brulant, which means “hot” or “scorching” in French.

To Snyder, business is business, even when it involves the fast-moving world of technology.

“In some ways, it’s changed a lot. But in some ways, it hasn’t changed at all. It is still about relationships. Technology changes, but you still have to have good people running it.”

Snyder says he’s enjoying himself now more than he ever has, and he’s become an integral part of the Crooked River creative team.

“I came up with Expansion Draft (beer), and it was a great seller for us,” he says.

And, Snyder’s helped draft slogans like the ones seen at Crunch games, where the side boards read: “Expiration date, born-on date, how about get a date?”

For Snyder, much like frequent product tastings, it’s all part of the business.

“We have fun with it,” he says. “It’s only beer; you can’t be too serious about it.”

Beer and sports obviously go hand-in hand. Crooked River is involved with most major sporting events in Cleveland.

“People who like sporting events like beer,” he says. “There is a lot of statistical evidence out there that says effectively (sporting events) are just a big bar. If you go to the baseball game, you will see people standing in line to get our beer while there is nobody in line to get the other beer.”

Beer and sports may go together, but what about a Cleveland-owned beer company that has a stake in a Maryland company, and its relationship to a certain Baltimore football team?

When faced with the question of whether to sell Crooked River beer at the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium, Snyder had to make a crucial decision.

“We had an opportunity to sell our beer at Ravens’ field and we turned it down,” he says. “That should tell you something. We did a deal with the Washington Redskins to sell beer. We sell a lot of beer at Camden Yards, and we were written up in the New York Times about that. But with the Ravens, I just can’t do it.”

So at least one thing is certain — on Feb. 18, Snyder won’t take any flack about selling out to the minions of Art Modell. How to reach: Snyder International Brewing, (216) 619-7424; Cleveland Crunch, (216) 896-1140

Kim Palmer ([email protected]) is managing editor of SBN Magazine.