I arrived in New York yesterday to take part in some of the festivities of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, including today’s “passing of the ball” from Yankee Stadium (this year’s host ballpark) to Busch Stadium (next year’s host). While I was traveling, my office got a call from Bloomberg TV asking me to comment on the impending sale of A-B. Since I was staying only a fifteen minute walk from their studio, I agreed to do the interview there.
Here’s what I told them:
My own brand loyalty is to St. Louis.
Budweiser beer and the city have been closely and cordially associated together for 150 years. The beer’s earliest motto and its most recent TV ad both said St. Louis. Brewers in twelve other breweries add or subtract things from the water to make their brewing water taste like St. Louis tap water. Thousands of St. Louisans work for AB — most of them in the big brewery on Pestalozzi Street. Tens of thousands of other St. Louisans are from brewery families, residents whose parents, grandparents, and great grandparents worked at the brewery and most of them own its stock. Two of my own siblings work at the brewery. AB treats its employees very, very well.
That history and all those connections make most St. Louisans, including me, face this merger with mixed feelings.
We do not yet know what impact the inevitable cuts at A-B will have on the employees, on their retirements, on A-B’s corporate philanthropy. Having the top decision makers live across the world instead of across the street is going to change things. Obviously, one of my first goals will be to try to convince InBev, which loves to cut costs, to move to St. Louis where pretty much everything is cheaper than in Belgium.
On the other hand, $70 cash a share for A-B stock is going to mean a tremendous transfer of wealth into St. Louis — which I expect will mean an up-tick in the purchase and sale of St. Louis real estate, automobiles, and a lot of other things.
I am very committed to working with both companies to make sure that the merged company remains a great corporate citizen and a great employer for thousands of St. Louisans.
It doesn’t matter what I believe about any promises made by InBev (or A-B). What matters is what they end up doing.
I will tell you more about All-Star Week later.