McMullen & Sons has announced a fund-raising deal that looks to have healed the split in the controlling family and saved the future of the brewery in Hertford and its 130-plus tied estate.

The 175-year-old business hit trouble last year after two McMullen family members, Ian and John, said they wanted access to their locked-in capital in the brewery.

Many feared this would mean the break-up of the company, one of the last surviving family brewers in the Home Counties. However, the company's chairman, David McMullen, and his nephew Fergus, son of John, declared their intention to keep the business going, and a review was begun of possible options.

Proposals for a reconstruction of the company to allow the dissident family members the liquidity they wanted was apparently passed by the company's board but failed to get the agreement of major shareholders.

However, the company has now agreed to sell enough of its considerable "non-licensed" properties, including shops and offices, and return the cash to shareholders, to satisfy the dissidents. It is also looking at releasing part of its brewing site for development. This is believed to be the listed 19th century brewhouse, which has not been used for brewing for some time, after all production was transferred to the more modern brewhouse alongside.

Company spokesman Barry Bremner said: "What this means is that brewing will continue in Hertford under the McMullen name as it has since 1827. The message is that it's business as usual - and in the light of the doubling of profits over the past four years, it's an exceptionally healthy business."

All the same, the brewery's supporters will be worried that it is looking at plans to scale back brewing enough to come within the provisions of Progressive Beer Duty, which apply to companies brewing less than 18,000 barrels a year. To do this it would cease contract brewing for Scottish & Newcastle at Hertford and concentrate on the production of its own ales, which include AK and Country Bitter.

o David McMullen, the company's chairman and joint managing director, has told his board he wants to stand down on health grounds. He will continue until the appointment of an independent non-executive chairman and afterwards will stay on as a non-executive director. Peter Furness-Smith, currently the other joint MD, would then become sole managing director.

David McMullen said: "It is with regret that I shall be stepping down as chairman after 25 years with the Company. My immediate family and I remain resolutely committed long-term holders of McMullen shares and I look forward to the continuing success of the Company."