Having a wife, friends and family who are all attorneys, along with my own eight years working in a law office, I just found my new favorite quote. Interviewed in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carlos Brito — InBev’s CEO — responded to a question asking “what about the nasty rhetoric in the lawsuits?” The question was referring, of course, to the multiple lawsuits filed by InBev and A-B against one another and the aggressive arguments advanced and language used in them. Since the initial June 11 takeover bid by InBev to acquire Anheuser-Busch, relations between the two have become increasingly rancorous as the takeover bid grew more and more hostile. But Brito brushed aside all that ill-will with four beautifully concise little words. You can all but see him waving his hand as you read his words.
“Eggh — written by lawyers,” he said.
That’s just wonderful. He distilled more than a month’s worth of gamesmanship down to its essence. This whole public charade has been nothing more than the parries of two giant corporations locked in battle over the price of their deal. My earlier Godzilla analogy never seemed more accurate than in Brito’s words.
The big news, of course, was InBev’s Friday morning increase in the purchase price from $65 a share to $70. As the weekend winds down, speculation continues that the two parties are and have been meeting, and that an agreement may even be reached before the weekend is over, meaning literally at any moment now. Financial analysts are near unanimous in their belief that A-B will now accept the deal — under some terms — at the new, higher price.
Saturday evening, the London Financial Times was reporting that the two remaining issues on the table were “how InBev would honor Anheuser-Busch’s commitments to its employees and beer wholesalers” and “the roles of Anheuser-Busch’s executives in the merged company.” If the deal goes through, the merged InBusch will leapfrog over SABMiller into first place as the world’s biggest brewing company. It would mean worldwide, one out of every four beers sold would be one of their brands, giving InBusch “an unprecedented collection of beer brands and power over suppliers.”
But my other favorite quote from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, about the machinations of this deal, was expressed by Stuart Greenbaum, formerly with Washington University’s Olin Business School.
“It’s like a ritual mating dance.”
Now that’s quite a mental image. One, in fact, which makes me think of Monty Python. To wit:
The ritual of corporate negotiations in the modern world, as represented by Monty Python’s The Fish Slapping Dance.
UPDATE: As of around 5:00 p.m. PDT, Reuters is reporting that a deal announcement could be coming this evening and that the issues of executive roles, board make-up and price have all been resolved. The parties are meeting at the Spirit of St. Louis airport in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield and a final vote is expected this evening, barring any new hitches.