Despite recent challenges faced by Anheuser-Busch, billionaire investor Bill Gates has injected nearly $100 million into the company. Former Anheuser-Busch executive Anson Frericks believes this move is a “mistake,” citing Gates’ previous $900 million investment in rival Heineken, which saw a 10% decline while the broader markets gained 10%.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, overseen by Gates and his ex-wife, acquired 1.7 million Anheuser-Busch shares, valued at $95 million, during the last quarter. This investment coincides with financial difficulties for the company due to a controversial Bud Light campaign that led to a conservative boycott and criticism from LGBTQ activists.
The boycott has had a substantial impact, with Anheuser-Busch InBev reporting a sharp decline in profits, including a 10.5% drop in U.S. revenue in the second quarter and a 28.2% reduction in earnings before taxes, interest, and depreciation. The company has also implemented layoffs as a result.
In addition, Bud Light recently lost its long-standing position as the best-selling beer in the U.S., with Modelo Especial surpassing it in sales for 2023. Frericks suggests that Gates may not resonate with the everyday beer consumer, proposing that someone like Rob Gronkowski would be a better fit for investment.
Frericks has been critical of Anheuser-Busch for what he perceives as prioritizing politics over shareholders and consumers. The company’s target audience remains unclear, and Anheuser-Busch has yet to clarify its brewing direction.
An outspoken critic of woke business politics, Frericks is also the co-founder and president of Strive Asset Management, which prioritizes shareholder interests over environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investments.
Anheuser-Busch, including its Bud Light brand, is still grappling with defining its corporate identity. Some advocate a focus on providing excellent products and services to shareholders, while others, akin to BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard, advocate for a more comprehensive approach, considering stakeholders, activists, and political organizations.
Following the controversies stemming from the Dylan Mulvaney campaign, Anheuser-Busch has sought to reconnect with customers by emphasizing football, country music, and other quintessentially American themes in its new advertising efforts. However, the company has yet to clearly articulate its target audience and future direction, leaving questions about its involvement in political issues unanswered.