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Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon Paperback – November 8, 2011
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From the Inside Flap
Once upon a time, the "King of Beers" ruled the worldBudweiser controlled 52 percent of the U.S. beer market, and Anheuser-Busch was the world's top brewer. Then, economic hardship fell upon the land of milk and honey (and baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet), and the King became a pawn that easily fell into the hands of foreign interests. Today, the Great American Lager is no more. Anheuser-Busch's fairy tale is over, and as Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon details, the legendary company collapsed in spectacular fashion. How it all played out behind the scenes is the real storyand it's one people should get used to hearing as foreign companies set their sights on America's most popular brands, taking advantage of a weakened American economy and preying on American corporations that have for far too long viewed themselves as "too big to be taken over."
In the summer of 2008investment bank Bear Stearns had already collapsed; lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were teetering on the verge of insolvency; financial services firm Lehman Brothers would soon declare the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history; and Anheuser-Busch had just received a takeover bid from foreign brewing giant InBev. As Dethroning the King describes, InBev's timing wasn't just lucky; it was perfect.
Anheuser-Busch, which had been ruled for decades by iron-fisted scion August A. Busch III, had just handed the reins to his son, August A. Busch IVand young August's leadership was drawing lukewarm reviews from investors and even his own board of directors. Americans all across the country, meanwhile, were too distracted by their imploding personal finances to be concerned about Anheuser-Busch's fate. Many Americans had never even heard of global brewing behemoth InBev, and they didn't realize Budweiser had come under foreign attack until it was too late.
On November 18, 2008, the stock of Anheuser-Busch, known for its "BUD" ticker symbol, stopped trading, and one of America's oldest, most beloved brands lost its American-owned status. In Dethroning the King, Julie MacIntoshthe U.S. Mergers and Acquisitions Correspondent who led the Financial Times's coverage of the takeover of Anheuser-Buschtakes you behind the scenes to tell the inside story of the King of Beers' 150-year rise to power and its seven-week fall from grace.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
August Busch (A.B.) III, the former highly-respected A-B CEO, had stepped down in 2002. Known for his attention to detail, especially quality and brand image, he had over-focused on beating Miller in U.S. market share, largely ignoring foreign opportunities. (A-B did own part of both a Chinese [Tsingtao] and Mexican beer [Grupo Modelo] producer.) His son, August Busch IV, unfortunately was known for vitriolic disputes with his father, lacked the board's confidence, and often was AWOL from his leadership duties. The takeover danger had been spotted at least two years prior, but little was done in defense until too late - $500 million/year ($1 billion at another point - unclear which they really committed to) in savings (including 1,185 positions), identified the day InBev made its offer.
InBev was created by the 2004 combination of Brazil's Ambev and Belgium's Interbrew. The takeover cost InBev $70/share, in cash (A-B stock was in low $50s when InBev began pursuit; initial offer was $65/share), and created the world's largest beer company with about 200 brands. InBev changed its name to Anheuser-Busch InBev to maintain A-B's heritage and stifle opposition; it also decided to site its N.A. headquarters in St. Louis.
In late 2006, A. B.Read more ›
The first third of the book focuses on the personalities of the three generations of Busch leaders that ruled A-B for the last 80 years. This section is filled with rich anecdotes of inter-family power grabs and contrasting personal and professional management styles. For those not familiar with the Busch dynasty, the stories are fascinating and make for a good read. Following an effective set-up of the main characters, the author profiles what made A-B so successful in its meteoric rise from roughly 20% of the U.S. beer market share in the mid-70s to ultimately capturing 52% by 2002. It was interesting to see how the single-minded focus of A-B's CEO, August Busch III, and the effective advertising campaigns of the 90s helped cause such dramatic results.
Beginning around 2006, however, A-B's management hubris, a massively out-of-market cost structure and extremely insular thinking made the company vulnerable to a foreign takeover attempt. The last one-third of "Dethroning the King" tells a blow-by-blow narrative of how the takeover was planned, financed and executed. The author takes the reader into the Board rooms of both "hunter" and the "hunted" and even manages to save a couple of surprises for the end.
Similar to "The Smartest the Guys in the Room" which told the fall of Enron, in "Dethroning the King" the readers know the end result even before picking up the book yet this does not diminish one's enthusiasm for hearing all of the details of the story. The author's pace is well balanced, and the book is challenging to put down after beginning.
"Dethroning the King" is also about loss because almost every involved in this sad takeover tale is a loser. Carlos Brito of InBev seems like a winner but he overpaid for the dethroned "King of Beers" and hastened the devaluing of one of the most iconic brands in the world. August Busch III is a loser who made a lot of money, built a hugely successful company but ended up as a solitary jerk trusted and loved by nobody (though respected by all). Busch the Fourth is a nice guy in way, way over his head, somebody who should have been managing a beer wholesaler in a mid-level market. The financiers involved in the story are all from collapsed and disgraced -- though bailed out -- firms. The Board of Directors of the former Anheuser-Busch come off perhaps the worst of all, self-interested, lazy corporate yes-men who never created a job and wouldn't know a real Budweiser from a warm pitcher of spit. St. Louis and the rest of the USA are also big losers as another hometown hero company bites the dust.
This is not a fun read and the author probably indulges in too much psychobabble about the father-son drama between the reptillian Busch III and the hapless Busch IV.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Awesome read. Interesting dive into the positioning of American corporate culture and legacy in a fast changing world. Recommend it.Published 7 days ago by Lindelwa Farisani
Great book. Exceptional story told exceptionally well. If you have ever wanted to know exactly what happened at A-B,this is the book.Published 1 month ago by Garry Taylor
WOW! I never knew this happened in America. Very well written and a "Good Read"!Published 3 months ago by Volvo Mom
A fascinating in depth look at a takeover. Useful to those interested in the particular case or those with interest or experience in the industry that would wish to draw parallels.Published 8 months ago by Kaj Jež
Wonderfully paced and researched book about the largest cash takeover ever. A-B is a complete corporate enigma, crazy they lasted as long as they did. Read morePublished 8 months ago by J. Smith
It was an interesting and incredible history for AB, the way in the book is showing all the issues an story of an iconic company is really good. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Jonathan Franco
Well written insider story about how boards and corporations deal with a takeover bidPublished 14 months ago by Richard Strenkowski