Anheuser-Busch is best known as North America's King of Beers, as a result of its Budweiser and Michelob brands. But in a shock development in 2008, this American icon was acquired by Belgian-Brazilian rival InBev for a whopping $52bn. That deal created a mammoth new business, the world's largest brewer by a considerable margin. The combined company now operates under the name AB InBev, although its main US subsidiary is still known as Anheuser-Busch. It remains the clear leader in the US beer market, with around 45% market share. Until the InBev takeover, the business was also one of the largest theme park operators in the US (with Busch Gardens and Seaworld, among others), as well as a leading manufacturer of aluminium containers. The parks business was sold in 2009, and the group has gradually reduced its exposure to materials manufacturing and recycling.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Nov 2017: Continuing weak performance in its key US market prompted another shake-up at Anheuser-Busch InBev. North American CEO Joao Castro Neves has departed the group and was replaced by Michel Doukeris, another Brazilian-born executive who was previously global sales officer. "Now, we're going to have a more commercially minded person at the head of the business," said group CEO Carlos Brito, in a blunt rebuke to Neves, who had spent two decades at the group and its predecessor companies. In addition, Brendan Whitworth (one of AB InBev's comparatively rare non-Brazilian senior executives) was appointed as VP, North America sales, in place of Alex Medicis. Market share for AB InBev's two biggest US beers has been falling steadily despite multiple attempts to curb that decline. Market share for top-seller Bud Light has fallen from 21.4% in 2008 to 18.8% last year, according to Euromonitor, while Budweiser has slumped from 10.6% to 6.8%. Industry watcher Beer Marketer's Insights estimated a further fall in volumes during the year to-date of almost 6% for Bud Light.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: Brewing giant AB InBev's numbers were mostly positive, with revenues and profits both up on growth in emerging markets, but the group is still struggling with declines in the US, where underlying sales fell by more than 5%, and volumes by more than 6%. Local leader Bud Light continues to lose market share against Corona Extra and craft brews, even if it is in no danger of surrendering its position as the country's top-selling beer anytime soon. Budweiser too was down.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Mar 2017: AB InBev made changes to its US marketing team. In yet another attempt to curb the continuing decline at flagship brand Bud Light, its brand VP Alexander Lambrecht is moving to another as yet undisclosed role, and will be replaced by company veteran Andy Goeler, who headed Bud Light in its heyday in the 1990s. A 30-year Anheuser-Busch veteran, Goeler is one of the few remaining managers who predates the InBev takeover. "He is the most experienced marketer we have in our organization," said US marketing chief Marcel Marcondes, "and he's got an outstanding track record of results." At the same time, Lucas Herscovici, who has headed US sponsorships and media since 2014, moves to a global role as VP, strategic innovation, media & insights. He will also lead oversight of AB InBev's recently announced global media review. He is replaced as VP, US customer connections by Joao Chueiri.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Nov 2016: AB InBev moved its top US marketer Jorn Socquet to a new role as VP, global marketing strategy for core brands. He is replaced as VP, US marketing by Marcel Marcondes, previously VP, global marketing, brands & growth development. The change appears to be promoted by disappointing performance for key US brand Bud Light, sales of which have been slowly declining. The politically-themed Bud Light Party campaign featuring Any Schumer and Seth Rogen was recently terminated ahead of schedule as a result of low enthusiasm from both customers and wholesalers.
Adbrands Weekly Update 7th Jan 2016: AB InBev used the last days of 2015 to add to its already extensive collection of craft beers, inking deals to acquire US-based Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado, and Arizona's Four Peaks, as well as the Camden Town Brewery in London, England. No prices were disclosed for the acquisitions.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Budweiser was the United States' first "national" beer, when it was launched in 1876. Founder Adolphus Busch was the son-in-law of successful St Louis businessman Eberhard Anheuser who had bankrolled a small local brewery in 1860. Adolphus joined the company as a salesman and proceeded to completely change the direction of the business. Budweiser was first launched in 1876, formulated to appeal to all tastes. In 1879, the brewery's name was changed from the Bavarian Brewery to the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, and Adolphus Busch became president the following year.
The biggest problem facing all brewers was how to distribute their freshly brewed product nationally before it spoiled. Busch created a network of railway icehouses to store beer en route, and designed the first fleet of refrigerated freight cars in the 1880s. To build on the success of Budweiser, the company launched Michelob in 1896, a darker beer, more European in taste. With a keen eye on marketing Busch began distributing high quality penknives to wholesalers, each carrying his portrait within a small peephole. In 1890 he came up with an even more successful giveaway, giving bar owners a free lithograph of the painting ''Custer's Last Fight'' as a point-of-sale item. It became one of the most successful promotions in US marketing history, with 18m distributed.
Prohibition almost destroyed the company in the 1920s, but Adolphus's son August Busch Sr quickly diversified into the production of baker’s yeast, ice cream, the soft drink Bevo and commercial refrigeration. In 1933, Prohibition ended and the company returned to beer, introducing canned Budweiser three years later. In 1955, the company introduced a third brand, low priced Busch. Also during that decade the company took two new turns, opening a fairground in Tampa Bay, Florida under the name Busch Gardens, and acquiring the St Louis Cardinals baseball team.
Despite diversification, beer remained the core of the business. By the early 1960s, Anheuser-Busch was producing more than 10m barrels of beer a year, and had overtaken Schlitz to become America's #1. The group finally began to move beyond North America in the 1980s, launching Budweiser in the UK, initially under license to Scottish & Newcastle, and in Japan in 1984. It was also time for further diversification. The company had added a second Busch Gardens in Williamsburg in 1975, but this remained a minuscule part of the business. In 1989 the group made a concerted move into entertainment with the purchase of the four Seaworld parks, making it one of the country's biggest theme park operators. (One of the parks, in Cleveland, was subsequently sold).
The group also flirted with foods, acquiring Campbell Taggart baked foods in 1982, and launching a range of snackfoods under the company's Eagle logo. These businesses were spun off or sold in 1995, as was the baseball team. In 1993, the group took a strategic stake in Mexico's Grupo Modelo, assisting indirectly as that company's Corona beer overtook Heineken to become the leading imported brew in the US. In 1995, Anheuser took back control of Budweiser in the UK, buying its London brewery from Scottish & Newcastle. It also took its first steps into China with the formation of what was initially a joint venture brewery in Wuhan. It gradually increased its shareholding to 97% by 2005. In 2002, a strategic alliance was formed with Tsingtao, and in 2004 the group launched a battle for control of the country's 4th largest brewer, Harbin, when it acquired a 29% stake in the business for around $138m. This put it into competition with rival SABMiller, which already owned a 30% holding in the business. Miller launched a bid for the remaining shares in Harbin later that year, but management gave its support instead to Anheuser, which acquired all the outstanding shares, including those of SABMiller for around $715m.
August Busch IV was appointed as group CEO in 2006, having previously served as president of Anheuser-Busch USA. At the same time, his father August Busch III retired as chairman, and was replaced by Patrick Stokes, the former group CEO. Following completion of the takeover by InBev, Busch IV remained a director of the enlarged company until 2011, one of two from the former Anheuser-Busch. Two of the group's longest-serving and most influential marketing executives also left the group following the takeover. Tony Ponturo had been VP, global media & sports marketing, responsible for building Budweiser's close relationship with various US sports, but especially football. He left at the end of 2008, and was followed in early 2009 by Bob Lachky, EVP, global industry development and chief creative officer. It was Lachky who oversaw the creation of such memorable campaigns as Wassup, the Budweiser frogs and Real Men of Genius. See full profile for current activities
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