Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nothing Gold Can Stay

St. Louis is a parochial place. People who live here like to know where you went to High School. They are emphatic fans of their Cardinals Major League Baseball team proud of their big small town. So when one if its flagship corporate headquarters has news, people listen. Such was the case when InBev launched its takeover of the King of Beers.

Visit St. Louis and you can count among your stops a complimentary tour of the oldest and largest Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Since its founding in 1852 in St. Louis, Missouri the company has been a symbol of the American entrepreneurial spirit. We love Horatio Alger stories of rising from humble backgrounds to lives of security and comfort through determination, courage, and hard work. A great story, yet the company recently moved into a new chapter as a global firm.   
How did InBev, a Belgian company controlled by Brazilians, take over one of America's most beloved brands? In Dethroning the King, author Julie MacIntosh details how the drama that unfolded at Anheuser-Busch in 2008 went largely unreported as the world tumbled into a global economic crisis second only to the Great Depression. The book published in November of 2011 helps shed light on how the King of Beers was so easily captured by a foreign corporation.

I’ve lived in St. Louis for more than 15 years but I know that I’m still technically an outsider. I can see, however, that our little Shangri La cannot remain unchanged. Nor can we as business people expect to protect the status quo. Read this account of the takeover of the King of Beers and you will get a peak at the forces at play. The global economy, management and corporate governance are variables. Timing and opportunity are factors.
Nevertheless, as I read this incredible business story, I couldn’t help chuckling as I have had something less than six degrees of separation from those quoted heavily in this account. My friend Bill Finnie (a 27 year veteran of Anheuser-Busch), Charlie Claggett (the former advertising agency creative chief and managing director) and Dave Peacock (a top executive at AB even after the merger before his departure this past year) are all close encounters with my own career path for a variety of reasons. I am reminded of the Robert Frost poem Nothing Gold Can Stay. A cautionary tale perhaps, but one worth considering.      

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

No comments:

Post a Comment