Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beer brawl never really got going

They've wrapped it up. InBev and Anheuser-Busch have agreed on the terms of their combination. Shareholders of the target company will get a sizeable premium over the price of their stock before the bid, and Budweiser (not Stella Artois) will be the flagship brand of the combined company.

And that lawsuit filed last week? the one that invoked US policy toward Cuba? It hasn't been withdrawn, and no responsive pleading has yet been filed, but I gather it'll be allowed to wither on the vine.

Some family history. Judging from utterly unreliable comments on blogs, and deserving of all the credibility that sourcing suggests: the Busches are descended from Bavarians and Hessians. Anheuser is itself apparently a brewing town in what used to be Bavaria. There is also an Anheuser family, which joined the Busch's by marriage a couple of generations back.

InBev also gets to inherit an intellectual property dispute, because Busch ancestors got their start in brewing as frank imitators of an already well-known beer, and their "King of Beers" is a usurper.

Pivovar Budejovicky Budvar has the legal rights to market its beer under the "Budweiser" brand name in much of Europe, but it sells it in the rest of the world under variants such as "Budvar" and "Czechvar" to avoid legal squabbles with Anheuser-Busch.

Anheuser-Busch has made offers to buy the Czeck brewing company out but this has been repulsed. Keeping the Budweiser name Czech has become a matter of national pride. Perhaps it is more prideful to stand up to Americans than it would be to stand up to Belgians, so some deal will be cut in the near future as a consequence of this consolidation.

But really ... who cares? I wanted to see a fight over the merger and a proxy fight over that first fight! Waaaaah.

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