Family Business or Corporate Behemoth?

My buddy Jay Brooks has weighed in on the InBev/A-B deal with his usual panache and intelligence. Worth reading.

But to his comments: I would reply that the difference here is not that A-B is an American company, but that the same family has maintained stewardship, and that’s a LOT different that another corporate-owned company going foreign. Eg, SAB bought Miller from a huge global conglomerate, Philip Morris. Similarly, A-B bought Latrobe from Labatt, which was itself owned by InBev.

Put another way, at the time of the sale, Latrobe had long since ceased to be an “American” brewing company. Ditto Miller. Moreover, both had long since lost “family” stewardship.

So there is a special circumstance surrounding the possible A-B sale: No, the Busch family does not hold controlling shares, but for 140+ years, with only one or two brief exceptions*, the family has maintained a hold on the leadership. That alone speaks volumes about the way in which A-B is imbued and endowed with the heart and soul of that family. Indeed, I would argue that it’s the company’s most valuable asset. (And of course, I would be told I’m nuts by most industry analysts….)

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* In the early 1970s, Richard Meyer served briefly as president, the first non-Busch to do so. I think that since then, there’s been one other non-Busch in the office.

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