A-B: “These Are Challenging Times”

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Brew Blog

CEO: A-B won’t be acquired on “my watch,” WSJ says.

Anheuser-Busch knows it has a lot at stake this year — and it told its distributors just that.

“I don’t need to tell you these are challenging times,” A-B CEO August Busch IV told distributors at a meeting in Chicago this week, according to a report from Beer Business Daily.

The theme of the meeting: The Will to Win.

From BBD’s report:

… make no bones about it, the stakes have never been higher for The King to win. The year 2008 will be a pivotal one for A-B as its largest two competitors merge to clip A-B’s market share advantage to less than 20 points, it comes to market with a slew of new products (two of which contain the holy Bud trademark name), and it defends its massively important core brand volume.

Just how much is at stake was verbalized best by a distributor who asked about the possibility of A-B being bought out by an overseas competitor. … One of the questions yesterday was whether, with the weak dollar and strong overseas brewers, could A-B be acquired? August replied that, if A-B can grow sales and control costs, it can control its own destiny.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal’s Deal Journal blog said that Busch had some “strong words” about the possibility of being acquired. From the story:

The St. Louis brewer won’t be acquired on “my watch,” Busch said, according to two people who were in the room. Anheuser distributors loudly applauded the comment. (A spokesman refused to confirm or deny the incident.)

Beer Marketer’s Insights noted that Evan Athanas, vice president of sales, said A-B had been having issues at retail. From the report:

Early during AB’s natl sales meeting, sales veep Evan Athanas said AB at “very critical juncture” … With all AB’s “advantages” Evan bluntly noted, “somehow we’re not winning at retail.” But AB share performance has picked up in supers more recently, he added.

BBD also picked up on some of Athanas’ comments:

A-B has so many new brands, that Evan said distribs needed to play a little catch-up in staffing and organization. “If you haven’t changed the structure” of your sales organization in the last few years, “you are behind the times,” said Evan.

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