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Blue Bottle

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James Freeman sold Blue Bottle without selling out

Freeman is No. 95 on the Recode 100.

Blue Bottle Coffee — the California-based, high-end, high-design coffee chain that’s expanding globally — is not the next Starbucks. Or is it?

In September, Blue Bottle sold a majority stake to Nestlé, the Swiss food conglomerate behind such famed coffee franchises as ... instant Nescafé.

The deal valued Blue Bottle in the hundreds of millions of dollars — not bad for a few dozen pretty cafés across the U.S. and Japan. But it also meant that founder Freeman and CEO Bryan Meehan wouldn’t come close to building an independent Blue Bottle corporation nearly as big as Starbucks, the publicly held global giant that’s worth more than $80 billion.

But if Freeman’s goal — dating back to 2002 — is to bring great coffee to more people, and if Nestlé invests in Blue Bottle’s continued expansion without messing up the formula, maybe that’s okay.

This article originally appeared on

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