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Wanted: New CEO to lead beer giant AB InBev

Carlos Brito © Belga

Leuven-based AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, has begun a search for a replacement for CEO Carlos Brito, the Financial Times reports.

Brito has been with InBev since 2005, and steered the company, best known worldwide for its Stella Artois brand, to world leadership. That came about by acquisitions, first of Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser, and later of SAB Miller, with brands including Fosters and Miller.

But while the acquisitions put AB InBev (the AB refers to Anheuser-Busch, acquired in 2008 for $52 billion or €44 billion) at the top of the tree, first place came at a cost. SAB Miller cost €87.8 billion, bringing the company’s total debt burden to €86.75 billion.

By the end of June this year, the debt still stood at just under €74 billion.

The debt weighed on the share price. In 2015, at the time of the SAB Miller takeover, the shares were trading at €122. On Monday this week, the shares closed at €49.34.

But while business worries, with the corona crisis and the lockdown of all bars and restaurants thrown in, may have weighed less on Brito’s decision to leave than personal matters.

Brito is now 60 and eyeing retirement. Earlier this year the company’s financial director, Felipe Dutra, resigned. Dutra was a Brito protegé, a fellow Brazilian and a close colleague. Every decision Brito made, it was said, had first been thrashed out with Dutra.

Now the search is on for a successor. AB InBev declined to comment to the FT, but according to the paper, only one name is currently doing the rounds – that of Michel Doukeris, who currently heads the US arm of the company.

Brito is likely to stay on until a successor can be found. Afterwards, a seat on the board awaits.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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