The Great Missouri Brewery Buyout(s)

So Boulevard just got acquired by Duvel, another Belgian brewer. And I just finished reading my second book on the Budweiser-InBev deal.

Sounds like a perfect time to blog.

Everyone’s first thought is to compare the two transactions. However, that’s a little naive for the following reasons:

  • Budweiser had been an American Icon for over a hundred and fifty years, and had been the largest brewery in the world for most of those years. Boulevard has been a Kansas City icon for almost 25 years now and is the 12th-largest craft brewery in America.
  • The 60-year-old founder of Boulevard said it was an “easy decision” and intends to remain with the new holding company in a big way for years to come. August Busch IV, CEO of AB at the time, was betrayed by the board (and his dad) after months of fighting off the takeover,  is no longer even a board member of the company his family ran for a hundred years, and has a major drug problem (allegedly).
  • InBev paid $52 billion for Anheuser-Busch. Billion. With a B. Mark it down as the largest cash transaction in history. Although numbers haven’t been released, the Boulevard deal will probably be more in the ballpark of the $40 million ABInBev paid for Goose Island in 2011. I can see it being about $100 Million, still about .2% of the AB-InBev deal. The actual amount probably won’t be released, though, as both companies are private.
  • No jobs will be lost in Kansas City (for the time being). About 6,000 jobs were lost nationwide in the years after the InBev deal. Budweiser needed to shed fat for a while, but it’s still undoubtedly a major blow to St. Louis and the entire country.
  • The InBev deal can be best described as a hostile takeover of a public corporation. The Boulevard deal seems more like a partnership between independent brewers for market expansion purposes.

Okay, great. So what do you think about this whole thing, David?

Glad you asked.

The Missourian in me is upset, the businessman in me is understanding, and the beer-lover in me is excited.

Yet another reason to make Missourians (especially Kansas Citians) upset. What company HQ’d in Missouri am I most proud of as a  right now? Express Scripts – meh. HR Block – whatever. Monsanto – sure. Scottrade – why not. Edward Jones – great. All amazing companies, but nobody you can brag about and really take pride in. It’s a big blow to morale for the state in my opinion. Yes, Boulevard isn’t leaving Kansas City. However, the next time I crack a Wheat open I’ll wonder how many cents are going to Belgium.

Business is Business. Deals get done. People get bought out. It’s hard to do any business without emotion, but when you have iconic brands at stake it’s even more difficult. As the soon-to-be CPA and future CEO of an amazingly creative start-up, it’s important to realize how the business cycle works. This deals looks amazing  for all parties involved. Boulevard gets ahold of an extensive distribution network otherwise unavailable. Organic expansion can be very difficult especially for an industry that involves  perishable and highly scientific goods. It’s overall a smart business deal for everyone involved (assuming a fair price).

Finally,

InBev wanted Anheuser-Busch because of the brand. Duvel wants Boulevard because of the beer. 

How exciting is this for craft brewers in America? Over are the days of American beers being called “piss water” (I’ve studied abroad, that’s what foreigners call Coors, Miller, and Bud). Craft brewers in America are gaining respect overseas from Belgians, Czechs, Germans, and everyone. Boulevard isn’t even delivered to half of the country currently, and yet…

A Boulevard Wheat being poured out of a European tap is no longer a question of if, it’s a question of when.

That’s pretty exciting as a Missourian, businessman, beer-lover, and American American.

That’s what I think I think.

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Edit: Friend Pete Radakovich encouraged me to check out the letter from the founder on Boulevard’s website. And I encourage you to as well.

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