Jul 3, 2008

World - Crying into their beer

Locals fear more job losses
MISSOURI’S politicians, from the lowliest alderman to the governor himself, are up in arms. Its Republican senator, Kit Bond, and its Democratic one, Claire McCaskill, have put aside differences and are asking the Justice Department to step in. The governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt, has ordered state agencies to do all they can to block the dreadful move. The cause is InBev of Belgium’s $46 billion bid for Anheuser-Busch. Busch brews Budweiser, probably America’s most famous beer and the world’s bestselling one. The company, though not the largest employer in St Louis, has its headquarters there and is a huge part of the city’s identity.
Patriotic beer-lovers have mounted a campaign to keep Budweiser in American hands. Websites appeared overnight once news of the bid broke and have so far collected around 70,000 signatures on electronic petitions. Yard signs and bumper stickers have sprouted, and on June 14th protesters marched to Busch stadium, one of the many fruits of Anheuser-Busch’s 150 years in St Louis.

Despite the local jokes about pouring Bud on Belgian waffles and Jean-Claude Van Damme karate-chopping the Clydesdale horses that pull the famous Budweiser beer wagon, a serious fear besets the opposition. InBev has a history of downsizing its acquisitions, selling off assets and cutting jobs. Some fear that as many as 2,000 blue- and white-collar jobs could be lost at the St Louis brewery and its corporate headquarters. Busch’s amusement parks around the country might be sold and Grant’s Farm, where the Busch family has opened part of its estate to the public, could close.
The Anheuser-Busch board will formally reject the offer, but St Louisans remain wary of any talk of takeovers. They saw many jobs lost when May Department Stores was bought in 2005. They saw hundreds laid off and their airport largely emptied when Trans World Airlines, which used St Louis as a hub, went under in 2001. They have seen many local businesses shuttered and former corporate headquarters standing empty. And now, they fear, they will not even have a locally owned glass of beer to drown their sorrows in.

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