Chauvinistic beer drinkers probably think they know this much about the latest front-page international takeover: tiny Belgium now controls Saint Louis’s mighty Anheuser-Busch.
“Anger and Dismay at the Sale of a City Treasure,” said the New York Times headline Thursday, over a story reporting that “in the end, sentiment and tradition were no match for a $52 billion offer from the Belgian beer giant InBev.”
Earlier, an AP story out of Saint Louis announced that “the King of Beers . . . is being swallowed by a Belgian brewer known for its frugality.” The Chicago Tribune reported Saint Louisans nervously wondering “what changes the sale of the company to Belgian brewer InBev will bring.” The Toronto Star described InBev as a “sleepy Belgian brewer until it bought Canada’s John Labatt Ltd. in the mid-1990s and went on a takeover tear, snapping up Bass, Beck’s and the largest Brazilian brewer.”
The Star got it wrong. Labatt was bought up in 1995 by the Belgian Brewer Interbrew. InBev didn’t even exist then. It was formed in 2004 when Interbrew merged with that “largest Brazilian brewer,” AmBev. Interbrew hardly snapped it up. InBev’s corporate headquarters remained in Belgium but corporate power shifted to Brazil. And Labatt was quick to see the difference — its Toronto plant was soon shut down. Brazilians dominate InBev’s executive board of management and Brazilian investment bankers are InBev’s major individual shareholders. They and the Brazilian CEO, Carlos Brito, who drove the Anheuser-Busch deal, have set the corporate culture, one said to be marked by ruthless cost cutting and a boundless appetite for mergers and acquisitions.
We can leave Belgium out of it.
American beer drinkers deserve to know who their colonizers are.