Yesterday, hundreds of Teamsters marched in downtown St. Louis, concerned that InBev might renege on their promises to not close the twelve Anheuser-Busch Breweries throughout the country. InBev employees were also there, presumably to mitigate the Teamsters’ worries. In fact, Union leaders representing InBev employees worldwide including Europe, Latin America and Canada announced an agreement to form a global alliance of InBev workers through the International Union of Food Workers. But with negotiations soon to be conducted between the Teamsters and InBev — not to mention InBev’s history of treating its acquisitions — clearly there was a reason the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, a subgroup of the Teamsters, organized the rally despite InBev’s continued assurances. I’ve personally spoken to several A-B employees, past and present, at various levels throughout the company, and the mood is cautious and most are more than a little worried about their individual futures. At the brewery level, there’s a little more sense of security, I’m told, because obviously InBev will continue to make beer. But the administrative positions, sales and marketing, desk jobs, etc., all have people running scared. I know plenty of people who were in similar positions with beer companies bought by InBev who now work elsewhere because they were made redundant shortly after InBev’s takeover. It’s hard to take InBev’s word on their promises to A-B given their very clear history of doing just the opposite.
The very next day, today, the St. Louis Business Journal is reporting that August A. Busch IV will receive $17 million in compensation over the next five years to advise InBev president Carlos Brito on “new products, marketing programs and charities, and to meet with retailers, wholesalers and advertisers and attend media events”. He’ll be paid a lump sum of almost $10.4 million and then $120,000 per month until 2013. But that’s not all. He’ll also get “an office in St. Louis, administrative support, a personal security detail, complimentary tickets to A-B-sponsored events and insured medical, dental, vision and prescription drug benefits.” Although he is prohibited from bashing InBev pursuant to a mutual non-disparagement covenant, but I imagine all that cash will allow to get over that. That’s over and above what he’ll make from the stock he owns. His father, August A. Busch III, stands to make $103.6 million.
It’s certainly not for me to say he doesn’t deserve this windfall. I’m sure his institutional memory has some value, but the juxtaposition of this enormous sum being revealed as the regular A-B employees who made that windfall possible fight for their very livelihoods, their futures and their retirement puts into stark relief the basic unfairness of our corporate system. Because this is not an unusual occurrence at all. In fact, it’s all too common when this type of merger, takeover, or whatever you want to call it takes place. The executives at the top, even if they horribly mismanaged the company and/or even caused the takeover, never suffer and in fact are almost uniformly rewarded with cash sums the average employee can only dream of. So as employees throughout Anheuser-Busch continue to lose sleep over their future, the Busch family and the rest of the top level executives are no doubt sleeping like babies, without a care in the world. It’s no longer up them whether the people that made them rich have a future or if InBev will ultimately keep the promises that helped seal their fate.