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The Near-Loss and Future of the Weber Grill Company

The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 had a deeply negative impact on everyone regardless of individual feelings about it. It had an impact on the barbecue and grilling world at large as well. For some of us, it meant perhaps more time to grill and smoke meat at home. For …

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By Jeremy Pike

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Near Loss and Future of the Weber Grill Company

The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 had a deeply negative impact on everyone regardless of individual feelings about it. It had an impact on the barbecue and grilling world at large as well. For some of us, it meant perhaps more time to grill and smoke meat at home. For those working in the industry, it had deeply felt and long-term effects as well, especially in terms of the supply chain and logistics as a whole.

It also helped bring a global grill brand to its knees, almost permanently. Weber, an icon of gas and charcoal grills, became a publicly traded company in August of 2021 before returning to the status of a privately held company at the end of 2022 in order to stay afloat. What happened, and why did the company responsible for the venerable Weber Kettle and the Genesis gas grills nearly fail? There’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s get started.

An Overview Of Weber

Weber Kettle

Yes, Weber is one of the most universally recognized grill brands in the world. Even people who don’t know much about the industry have heard of Weber kettles and gas grills. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the company has existed in one form or another since 1893 when “Weber Bros. Metal Works” was incorporated.

However, Weber really started when George Stephen Sr. built a kettle grill in 1951. For the next 70 years, Weber has become synonymous with summertime grilling throughout the world, regardless of your preferred fuel source.

Why Did Weber Go Public?

With people staying largely at home due to the pandemic, Weber saw a spike in sales thanks in large part to people staying home. In the first half of 2021, Weber’s sales figures were 62% more than the same time frame in 2020. The company’s profits for the first half of 2021 were only seven percent less than the entire profits for 2020. 

Weber Financial Overview

You can see in this image, courtesy of cookoutnews.com, Weber saw a major spike during the 2021 fiscal year which was part of the impetus for going public. So Weber wanted to capitalize on its growth and numbers by becoming publicly traded. This would allow the company to pay back debt and raise money for general business. 

You can also see that the proverbial bottom dropped out for Weber in the 2022 fiscal year. Why?

What Went Wrong For Weber?

Perhaps one of the first indicators that something would go wrong is with the initial public offering or IPO. Originally, Weber wanted to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 47 million shares for anywhere between $15 to $17 apiece. 

When Weber shares began trading on August 5, 2021, the shares were priced at $14, and approximately 17.9 million shares were bought. Even at the conservative estimate of $15 a share, Weber wanted to sell around $705 million worth of shares. They brought in just over a third of that, somewhere around $250.6 million. 

Weber Grills Stock Price Chart
Chart courtesy of Stockanalysis.com

However, there was a spike in Weber’s stock price only three days into being a publicly traded company. The company saw prices reaching and even exceeding $18 a share. That gave Weber some much-needed hope.

Unfortunately, it was short-lived. On October 24, 2022, shares closed at $5.03. There was some rebound, but the stock price never hit double-digits again. 

Unfortunately for Weber, they thought they were striking while the iron was hot, but it cooled quite quickly. The company made incredible sales early, but the problem with building high-quality grills is that they last. That’s great for customers but not great for a company looking for greater returns.

Then there were the complications from the pandemic. Whether it was simply shipping, production, or sourcing of materials, everything went haywire. A company based on building and selling grills was understandably going to suffer the longer the issues lasted. Weber had the stock early in the pandemic, so grills sold like the proverbial hotcakes.

Once the rush was done, Weber, like many companies, struggled to replenish its warehouses. The combination of factors led to Weber’s financial struggles on the market.

So Why Did Weber Go Private Again?

With shares sitting quite low, Weber was in trouble. In late December of 2022, the company’s board approved a sale to BDT Capital Partners LLC which was a controlling stakeholder with a 48.2% stake in the company. BDT purchased the company’s remaining outstanding shares at $8.05 per share, almost six dollars less than the original IPO price. In total, the deal with BDT was worth $3.7 billion.

The deal went through earlier in 2023, and part of the deal was a $350 million loan. The filings Weber made to go private provide a lot of information to what was going on behind the scenes, and it wasn’t pretty.

Essentially, Weber was going to be somewhere around $128 million in the hole by the end of March 2023 if something drastic didn’t happen. Getting $128 million would simply get Weber to a $0 balance. The company needed more money to help with preexisting loan conditions that could still cause bankruptcy issues.

Who (Or What) Is BDT Capital Partners LLC?

BDT is technically part of BDT & MSD Partners, “a merchant bank with an advisory and investment platform,” per their website. BDT helps raise capital and invests in companies long-term. 

Until 2010, Weber was still a family-owned company. However, that year, Weber sold a majority stake in the company to BDT. That relationship continued until Weber went public in 2021, then resumed to help keep Weber afloat.

What’s Next For Weber?

Well, to kick off 2023, not only did Weber go private, but the company released information on three new grills. Weber updated the SmokeFire pellet grill with the SmokeFire Sear+, then also launched a full-size griddle line and the new Lumin electric grills. 

However, there are rumors of bigger and better products coming in 2024. Weber has been filing a number of patents and trademarks in the last year or so, leading to conclusions that some new grills will be hitting the market next year. In January alone, Weber filed trademarks for “SEARWOOD” and a stylized image of the letter “Q.” Searwood could be a new pellet grill since the newest SmokeFire pellet grill has the word “Sear” in its name. The trademark filing is vague, but Weber’s filing said it “is intended to cover the categories of barbecue grills and smokers; fitted covers for barbecue grills and smokers.”

As for the Q logo, just about three months later, Weber also filed a trademark for a stylized “Q+” logo. Evidently, the company is planning some updates and additions to its portable gas grill line. Then later in 2023, two more trademarks were filed, one for “SmartControl” and one for “RAPID REACT.” 

In the “SmartControl” filing, Weber stated that it “is intended to cover the categories of computer hardware and software system used to monitor and control outdoor cooking appliances, namely, barbecue grills, smokers, griddles, and the like, for use in the outdoor cooking field.” That suggests a new computer controller that could be for a pellet grill or a rumored smart gas grill.

The “RAPID REACT” filing fits along with that while also adding to the idea that a new pellet grill is coming. Weber states the filing “is intended to cover the categories of a temperature control system, namely, a proportional-integral-derivative controller and algorithm for regulating temperature in a cooking appliance.” That’s also known as a PID controller, a term familiar to anyone using a quality pellet grill.

Wrapping It Up

While it may not have made front-page news, the grilling industry was incredibly close to losing one of the icons in Weber. Thankfully, despite some missteps, disaster appears to have been averted. 2023 appeared to be a positive one for the company, and there are enough breadcrumbs to suggest that 2024 could be even bigger. 

18 thoughts on “The Near-Loss and Future of the Weber Grill Company”

  1. They brcome a piece of junk after 3 years they rust out on the bottom and replacing it is impossible as the bts and nuts rust shut. I tried to fix it but now its junk snd going to recycle bin

    Reply
    • Hi Joe, I’m a firm believer that Weber still makes a quality product. If you keep the grill clean and covered when not in use, you can expect a long grill life. I appreciate the comments though.
      Thanks,
      Michael

      Reply
      • Joe has a good point, but I got nearly 12 years out of my Summit. There’s a fundamental design/manufacturing flaw in these grills; they start with pre-painted steel, punch holes and louvers in it, and don’t paint the newly raw edges. My Summit, always covered, started rotting out, starting from those raw edges, almost immediately. I note that my new Genesis has no holes in the grill bottom pan.

        Reply
  2. Yes, all good but, the Smoke Fire Ex6 is junk. A lot of people got burned on it. I replaced everything Weber suggested, they even sent the parts. It still never worked right so I ended up losing money totally and buying a different grill.

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear that Keith. Yes that Gen 1 of the Smokefire had it’s share of problems. Gen 2 was much better. It’s poor when customers end up being the guinea pigs for testing/reliability of a new product. Thanks for commenting.
      Cheers,
      Michael Haas

      Reply
  3. When it comes down to it most grills in the same fuel category are basically the same. Weber does not really innovate but just copies. Other manufacturers just improve on the same idea with little tweaks and better materials for construction. A lot of them are made in China.

    Reply
  4. I bought my 22″ Weber kettle grill over 25 years ago. It’s experienced the Chicago winters all of that time with no cover. No rust. The only things I had changed were the handles. The original handles were made of wood I’m always thinking of upgrading, but I just can’t toss the old one.

    Reply
    • Hi Kenny,
      I hear you. I still have my Kettle and I’ll never get rid of it. It’s nice and light so you can take it anywhere easily. Solid investment.
      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply
  5. I have had my kettle for 27 years. Cleaned twice a year, scrubbed, and even wax the lid occasionally. Still looks new!!!!! All I replace is the metal grates occasionally just because I feel I have to do something. It is still my go to cooking over all my other outdoor appliances. People that have rusted and broken grills (no matter what brand) most likely don’t take care of more than just their grill!

    Reply

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