St. Louis area unsure of "life after" Anheuser-Busch

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | 1:45 p.m. CDT; updated 4:26 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ST. LOUIS - The money given to the St. Louis community won't dry up, but the priorities may change when InBev completes its buyout of Anheuser-Busch, some of the region's financial advisers, charitable executives and other civic leaders were told Tuesday.

The St. Louis Business Journal hosted a discussion on "Life After A-B," a subject that has been on many minds in the city that has been home to the maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and other beers since Anheuser-Busch was founded a century and a half ago.

The merger of two of the world's largest beer companies was announced in July. It isn't known when it will be complete. Belgian-based InBev intends to retain St. Louis as its North American headquarters.

Still, the loss of a corporate headquarters for another Fortune 500 company has caused a great deal of anxiety in St. Louis, which in recent years has also seen McDonnell Douglas, May Department Stores, Trans World Airlines and other companies merged.

U.S. Bank Vice President Stephen Mullin said evidence from those mergers has shown that financial contributions to charities and investment in other businesses do continue.

But Mullin and David Luckes of the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation say the new owners often arrive with different ideas about how to spend their money within the community.

"When executive teams change, executives drive corporate giving, so priorities may change," Luckes said. "There may be a period where we're not clear what programs (InBev) will be involved in."

InBev CEO Carlos Brito has pledged to continue Anheuser-Busch's long history of financial commitment to St. Louis.

"We have every reason to believe InBev is going to be a good corporate citizen," Mullin said. "They obviously have very big shoes to fill."

Luckes said the pending merger will mean a windfall for many St. Louis area residents with stock in Anheuser-Busch, stock that in many cases has been passed down from generation to generation. Now, with many of those people expected to cash in their stock, they're faced with the anxiety of what to do with the money.

"The challenge with an event like this is ‘how much money do I really want to give away?"' he said. He suggested that investors seek guidance from professionals to maximize tax benefits on any investments that stem from the windfall.


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