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One Year Ago Today

July 13, 2009 - One year ago was a day that most in the beer business will never forget. I can still remember where I was when I heard the news that Anheuser-Busch's board of directors has succumbed to a hostile takeover bid by Belgian brewer InBev.

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The beer industry, like most other industries around the world, has gone through transformational and rapid change in the last 10 years. Global consolidation has abounded, but no other deal in the beer industry had the rattling effect of the iconic A-B being bought out against their will by a foreign entity.

On July 13, 2008, Anheuser-Busch ended 156 years of independence.

After putting up a fight, Anheuser-Busch's board signed off on a deal to make the hometown brewer a wholly owned subsidiary of a brewer that was the child of Belgian old money and Brazilian billionaires.

InBev had been publicly wooing Anheuser-Busch for a month. On June 11, InBev confirmed that it was launching a takeover bid for Anheuser-Busch at $65 a share, equating to $47.5 billion.

InBev began courting shareholders, the public, journalists and even politicians. InBev CEO Carlos Brito visited Washington a week after the company announced its bid, to court lawmakers who opposed the takeover.

On July 9, InBev upped its offer to $70 a share - amounting to an enormous $52 billion price, the largest all-cash deal ever. The resistance of A-B's board collapsed, and the deal was approved over a weekend of negotiations.

The end result is still playing out. There has been huge and varied speculation of what might become of the new 'ABI.' Many believed that InBev, known for excessive cost cutting, would recreate A-B, formally known for its 'sales and image at any cost,' into a shell of what it once was.

And there have been changes. Huge cuts in personnel, some assets sold off, a change in marketing and certainly more to come. The incredible brain trust that propelled A-B into a 50% domestic market share has all but vanished.

Only time will tell what only the crystal ball knows for sure; what will the 'new' A-B be?


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