Expensive Termination

The long running lawsuits between the family of baseball slugger Roger Maris and Anheuser-Busch was settled just as jurors reached a verdict Tuesday.

Stemming from the brewer’s termination of the family’s beer distributorship, the settlement came as the all-female jury reached a decision that was immediately sealed, on the second day of a three-week trial in state civil court. It was reported that A-B would pay the Maris family $120 million.

The agreement encompasses the defamation lawsuit and a $50 million jury award that the Maris’ had won against A-B in 2001 for ending their beer distributorship contract in 1997. That award had been tied up on appeal.

Walking out of the courtroom, Anheuser-Busch Cos. executive vice president John Jacob, one of the company officials accused of making defamatory remarks, said, “It’s over.”

Maris’ relatives accused the brewer of defamation after company officials publicly said the family’s distributorship was deficient and sold repackaged, out-of-date beer. The family claimed in court that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch plotted to destroy their reputation as a part of a larger scheme to seize the best-performing distributors for Busch family relatives and friends.

“The whole ball of wax is settled,” Maris attorney Willie Gary said. “We settled this case today. We settled the 2001 case and any other cases that may have been out there … Both parties are going to go their separate ways.”

The legal fight between Anheuser-Busch and the Maris family had consumed eight years, three trials and millions of dollars in legal fees. The company had given Roger Maris and his brother, Rudy, the distributorship after the slugger ended his career in 1968 with the St. Louis Cardinals, which it then owned. Roger Maris died in 1985.