Illinois Three-Tier Battle

AB tries to buy wholesaler

Anheuser-Busch is seeking is seeking to purchase the largest distributor of Budweiser in Illinois and is running into some interesting opposition.

Wirtz Beverage Group, MillerCoors LLC and Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc. are urging the state alcohol commission to deny allowing a brewer to own outsight its own distributorship saying that granting it would undermine the state’s three-tier system,

At a special hearing before the liquor commission last week, Anheuser-Busch lawyers argued that state laws don’t specifically exclude a brewer from distributing, which the company did through Illinois subsidiaries until 2005.

The controversy stems from Anheuser-Busch’s attempted buyout of City Beverage, of Chicago. The brewer said it reached a deal to purchase for “tens of millions of dollars” Detroit-based Soave Enterprises’ 70% stake in City Beverage; Anheuser-Busch already owns the other 30%.

But on Feb. 11, the day before the buyout was to close, the state liquor commission said it wouldn’t give Anheuser-Busch a license.