Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch by Julie MacIntosh - Book review

Dethroning the King

The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon

By: Julie MacIntosh

Published: October 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 408 pages
ISBN-10: 0470592702
ISBN-13: 978-0470592700
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

"Anheuser-Busch dubbed its flagship brand the "King of Bears" and spent more than half a billion dollars on marketing each year to make sure it became an American institution", writes award winning financial journalist Julie MacIntosh, in her in depth and spellbinding book Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon. The author describes how the mystique surrounding the iconic brewery came crashing down when the company was purchased by Brazilian brewing colossus InBev, and the one time symbol of America passed into foreign hands.

Julie MacIntosh weaves an intricate tale of backroom intrigue, strife and infighting within the Busch family, and how even the largest American corporations are potential takeover targets in a globalized marketplace. The author brings to light the often overlooked story of how Anheuser-Busch, reeling from backroom squabbles, family disagreements, and board that no longer trusted the judgment of family scion August A. Busch IV. The fortunes of the brewing giant had been sliding downward from its glory days of controlling 52 percent of the American beer market. In those halcyon days, Julie MacIntosh points out that Budweiser was one of the most recognizable and dominant brands in the United States. By 2008, however, those glory days were already a well faded memory, and the family dispute weakened corporation was ripe for takeover. The company with its eye on Anheuser-Busch was InBev of Brazil.

Julie MacIntosh (photo left) describes how InBev, formed in 2004, was almost completely unknown in America. The author shows how InBev was not only aggressively seeking takeover prospects from within the ranks of the best known American brands, but is a very financially oriented company. With their sharp focus on costs and revenues, they saw a vulnerable target in brand icon Budweiser. As the near Shakespearean family battles between the powerful and dominating August A. Busch III and his son the less able August A. Busch IV intensified, InBev saw a window of opportunity open in their favor. In an all cash deal, completed just as the world economy was teetering on the brink of collapse, the sale was completed, with Anheuser-Busch no longer being held in American hands. From the flagship Budweiser brand to the famous Clydesdale drawn wagons, the entire corporation became the property of Brazil based InBev. The legendary beer would become, in many ways, a bellwether of the relentless march to globalization and worldwide markets for all products.

For me, the power of the book is how Julie MacIntosh presents the takeover of Anheuser-Busch as a compelling multi-faceted business story. The author painstakingly researches every aspect of the sale of the corporation, from the earliest days when the deal was beginning to take shape, to the hectic conclusion of the transaction. Julie MacIntosh bases her book on a combination of public financial records and exhaustive personal interviews with people in both companies, ranging from the top executives to the rank and file employees. The book is well footnoted and annotated for accuracy and to help other researchers continue to study this fascinating adventure story. By placing the narrative in the context of the global marketplace, while sharing insights into the larger than life personalities involved, Julie MacIntosh presents an epic tale.

The bitter family battles between the domineering August A. Busch III and his in over his head son August A. Busch IV, are joined by the company's out of touch board of directors, and by the powerful Carlos Brito of InBev, in a power struggle of global proportions. The aftermath of the takeover saw the continued decline of Anheuser-Busch, and that saga continues to unfold in a global economy. The story of Anheuser-Busch, as the author describes it, is a fitting metaphor of the onward march of globalization, where there is no company too large to avoid being seen as a takeover target. This book serves as both a cautionary tale and a wake up call for American companies, where ignoring the global markets and foreign competitors can lead to the takeover of any size of corporation.

I highly recommend the landmark book Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon by Julie MacIntosh, to anyone seeking a definitive account of the takeover of American corporate icon Anheuser-Busch by Brazilian owned brewing giant InBev. The author presents the acquisition of the legendary company as both a family fight to the finish, and as a piece of the ever expanding influence of foreign owned companies as power players in the international market. This book points to more such foreign takeover events in the future, unless American management changes the way it conducts business and defends its legacy brands.

Read the important and compelling book Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon by Julie MacIntosh, and discover the inside story of of the sale of one of the oldest American companies, and how the personal and boardroom rivalries and battles led to that result. This book is, in many ways, a glimpse into the future of American corporations, as they face the harsh reality of the global economy.

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