A few minutes ago, I spoke with InBev CEO Carlos Brito about his company’s proposed $46.3 billion takeover bid of Anheuser-Busch. Our conversation was cordial and clear.
I told Mr. Brito that I am currently opposed to the sale of Anheuser-Busch to his company for several reasons:The brewery is a St. Louis — and American — icon.The brewery is a major employer in the City. It provides the sorts of jobs — unionized blue collar jobs, white collar executive jobs, and bright collar creative jobs — that support thousands of families in St. Louis and would be difficult to replace. The brewery also employs the professional and creative services of hundreds of St. Louis companies. Most people believe that in order to pay for the purchase, InBev will eliminate many of those jobs and contracts, and try to reduce many others.InBev has promised to keep the North American headquarters in St. Louis and to keep the St. Louis brewery open. But, other cities have been given similar promises during mergers and acquisitions, only to see those promises broken shortly after the deals are done. So, why should St. Louisans — or anyone believe InBev?Anheuser-Busch products have a very strong brand image. Bud is known as the “Great American lager.” The brewery’s customers are loyal and even passionate about that eagle. What will happen to the brand image, and therefore, what will happen to its sales, operations, and jobs, if there is a domestic backlash against this sale? If InBev buys A-B for the brand, and customers revolt, everyone will be hurt.And, finally, Anheuser-Busch currently plays a major role in supporting cultural, entertainment, and educational institutions in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation has published assets of $43 million and reported annual donations of $15 million. The brewery owns the naming rights to our ballpark. The proposed sale will have an uncertain effect on all those things.
(I have not spoken to any members of the Busch family, but I will let you know when I do.)