Brewdog boss diagnosed with ADHD after 'inappropriate behaviour' probe

Brewdog boss James Watt becomes latest high profile name to claim ADHD diagnosis after he sought ‘specialist help’ following allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards staff

  • James Watt, 40, said it was difficult to read social cues and express empathy 
  • He previously told the Diary of a CEO podcast that he ‘pushed people too far’ 

Brewdog boss James Watt has announced he has been diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The chief executive of Britain’s biggest craft brewer said he sought specialist help after he was described as ‘semi-autistic’ in the wake of allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards staff.

The 40-year-old has been diagnosed with ADHD – which causes people to be restless and impulsive – and Asperger syndrome, a form of autism.

Watt has been at the centre of a string of misconduct accusations in recent years after being accused of inappropriate behaviour towards women at work and abuse of power.

Brewdog boss James Watt has announced he has been diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Brewdog, Britain’s biggest craft brewer, has been valued at more than £1 billion and was founded by James Watt and Martin Dickie, who were at school together in Aberdeenshire

Revealing the diagnosis, he said the conditions make it difficult for him to read social cues and express empathy.

Watt said he will continue to work with medical experts to develop coping strategies to allow him to manage his conditions while still leading the Aberdeenshire-based company.

READ MORE: Why are so many adults now being diagnosed with ADHD? As Sue Perkins and Johnny Vegas become the latest celebrities to be told they have attention disorder, we take an in-depth look at the condition


He said: ‘Working with the specialist was really eye opening and after a series of consultations and tests I was diagnosed not only with High Functioning Aspergers (which is on the autism spectrum) but also ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

‘As a CEO and business leader I am far from alone in being on the autism spectrum – Elon Musk has Asperger’s.

‘The diagnosis gives the me opportunity to continue working with an amazing specialist on fully understanding the implications of my own neurodiversity and specifically on working hard on the associated blind spots (such as reading social cues or expressing empathy) whilst sharpening the gifts that also come with autism and ADHD such as focus, creativity and analysis.

‘Understanding the condition also means I can build practices into my daily life which help me better manage occasions, settings and experiences that I may find more challenging than others.

‘I am still in the early stages of my journey here and I intend to continue sharing thoughts and insights that may help other neurodiverse business leaders and entrepreneurs on their journeys too.

‘I am confident that working with fantastic specialists I can work within the confines of ASD and ADHD to continue to improve how I approach the leadership of BrewDog as well as how I approach life overall.’

A spotlight has been thrown on ADHD this month after comedian Johnny Vegas , 52, became the latest in a wave of celebrities to announce they have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Others include comedian Rory Bremner, chef Heston Blumental and TV presenters Ant McPartlin and Sue Perkins.

Watt said he had always thought of himself as an ‘odd fish’ who was uncomfortable in social settings and preferred being alone.

He put his behaviour down to having an analytical brain and did not seek help until last year when he decided to get assessed.

He added: ‘I have always struggled with anything emotional and I am terrible with social cues. I have always needed significant amounts of time by myself to be able to function well as a human.

‘I would often be more terrified in simple social settings than I would be facing huge storms in my days on the high seas of the north Atlantic.

I have always accepted these character imperfections and viewed them as a kind of trade off with other characteristics – my analytical ability, my work ethic and my ability to focus on tasks like a demented mother f***er.

‘It’s just how I am’ is pretty much what I always thought.’

It comes after more than 15 ex-staff previously spoke out against Mr Watt with some claiming he made female bartenders feel ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘powerless’.

They were even advised by colleagues on how to avoid unwelcome attention from Mr Watt, according to an investigation by BBC Scotland’s Disclosure programme.

Watt previously told Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast that he ‘pushed people too far’

BrewDog’s Old Street outlet in east London (pictured) 

Katelynn Ising, who worked at a BrewDog bar in Ohio, US, said female staff would dress down when they knew Mr Watt would be in their bars.

She said: ‘We would make a point to warn new girls… like, ‘Hey, just so you know, James Watt’s coming to town. Just kind of, like, leave after your shift, don’t really hang around [and] don’t always do your hair and make-up that day, like don’t catch his attention’.’

Other former staff claim Mr Watt was witnessed by staff kissing an intoxicated customer on a roof terrace at another US bar.

Mr Watt has said the allegations are false and denies behaving inappropriately.

Last year, some of Watts’ disgruntled former employees shared a scathing open letter slamming the company for its ‘toxic attitudes’ and accusing it of fostering a ‘culture of fear’ among staff.

Penned by a group called ‘Punks With Purpose’, the letter featured a list of 63 names of people who used to work for the firm, and takes aim at the Scotland-based brewery’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie.

It claimed the company is ‘built on a cult of personality’ and alleged that it left some staff feeling ‘burnt out, afraid and miserable’, adding that ‘a significant number of people have admitted they have suffered mental illness’ as a result of working there.

Writing collectively as a group called ‘Punks With Purpose’, the letter featured a list of names of people who used to work for the firm, and takes aim at the Scotland-based brewery’s founders

It went so far as to claim being treated like a human being ‘was sadly not always a given’ for those employed by BrewDog – trashing the image of the hipster company which offers ‘pawternity leave’ if a staff member gets a dog and pays employees £500 to quit if they don’t feel they’re a good fit.

At the time, Mr Watt subsequently issued an ‘update’ on the Punks With Purpose open letter, describing it as ‘so upsetting, but so important’.

He said: ‘Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act.’

Brewdog, which has been valued at more than £1 billion, was founded by Watt and Martin Dickie, who were at school together in Aberdeenshire.

They started the firm in 2007 with a bank loan and a grant from the Prince’s Trust because they could not find anything they wanted to drink.

After receiving criticism for its marketing campaigns and work environment, it has since sought to overhaul its culture by introducing a shared profit scheme, three company-wide employee representative groups, a diversity forum, a confidential ethics hotline, and increasing investment in learning and development.

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