Sunday, July 13, 2008

RIP Anheuser Busch - The King Of Beers Sells Out

Anheuser Busch

It was nice knowing you AB

1986 AB Commercial

The Last Great "American" Beer Company To Be Swallowed Up By Foreign Competitor

What will all those NASCAR folks drink now? I am trying to imagine fans at Baseball games and NASCAR races (The All-American Sports) being sold foreign Beer. If irony could kill... But I have a feeling that Americans still won't have a clue after this, just like all of those patriotic folks waving American flags made in China.

Anheuser Busch, an American icon, appears ready to agree to a buyout by Belguin Beer giant InBev. The AB takeover is the latest in what has become a trend over the last decade, of foreign entities swallowing up major American corporations and real estate. The U.S. is losing more and more of the companies that are part of the country's cultural fabric and that have made America what it is. The news of the likely AB "merger" came just days after an Abu Dhabi investment group bought a majority stake in the Chrysler Building, which is yet another enduring symbol of America. Investors from China and the Middle East have been buying up tons of American companies in recent years.

Is America for Sale? Will there be anything left that is "American" in the next 20 years? Brand America has been taking a hit for a number of years now. Stupidity and complacency are partly to blame, as is the case with General Motors & Ford for example (continuing to build gas guzzling trucks years after they knew that the market was shifting). But the wider problem seems to be that this is a nation on the decline, economically, socially, academically, politically, and in terms of international reputation.

AB is a tough one to take for some, because it is so much a part of America. I wouldn't usually care about what happens to a Beer company because I don't drink and I don't advocate alcohol use. The stuff has literally destroyed parts of my family and has almost killed me (indirectly). But AB is more than just a Beer company. It's more than just a national icon. For the City of St. Louis, AB is the trademark & flagship corporation for the community, and has been for decades. No other major American corporation is as immersed and interwoven into the local culture as AB has been in St. Louis. Sure, the brand AB will remain after the merger (after all, it is the brand that Inbev wants, and the brand holds the value). But St. Louis will lose yet another corporate Headquarters and thousands of people are preparing to lose their jobs.

AB was a big part of every major charitable event and organization in the region, benefiting folks from all backgrounds. The company sponsored just about everything that was dedicated to helping the less fortunate - A tradition for the company. And the company prided itself on being the last great American owned Beer company. The company also owned (until the Mid 90's) the St. Louis Cardinals, and played a big role in promoting Sports, and events for children throughout the Metro.

Losing AB as a corporate Headquarters and losing it as a company, is similar to Seattle losing Starbucks and Boeing, Colorado losing Coors, and Detroit losing GM and Ford. St. Louis has already been hit hard by factory closings, mergers and the loss of corporate headquarters' over the last decade or so. The city has really been gutted and knocked down from where it stood 20 years ago. Major losses of Corporate Headquarters for the St. Louis Metro include McDonnell Douglas, TWA, Mallinckrodt Inc., SBC- Southwestern Bell Corporation, Ralston Purina, AG Edwards, May Department Stores Co., and Venture Department Stores, to name a few. That doesn't include the closings of factories like Chrysler, Ford and others. Now the region will take a hit again with AB. The area has a few big companies left - Monsanto, Energizer, Emerson Electric Co., Charter Communications, and a handful of others, but I just wonder how long it will be before they are swallowed up in the current merger frenzy....and how many will be sold to foreign entities as part of the wholesale of America?

America is truly experiencing a sea change. And part of the reason why the adjustment will be so hard is because America (culturally and economically) was not prepared for globalization, just like it wasn't prepared for the current energy crisis. The U.S. got complacent while in its first place position in economics, geo-politics, military power, Pop culture, and technology throughout much of the 20th Century. Now the U.S. is paying the Piper for its complacency, as it has been caught with its pants down more and more often.

Interesting times, for sure. Even exciting for some. But I am wondering where it will end...where will America be in the next 20, 30 or 40 years, after the World economy resets itself. I have some ideas, and I have mentioned a few of them here before, but I hate to think about it. One thing that is likely to result from these long-term economic changes is a lower standard of living for many Americans. And the U.S. will have to get used to other Countries being at the head of the pack more often.

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