Carlos Brito, CEO of AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, is to step down from his post with effect from July.
Brito is 60, and has been at the helm of InBev for 15 years, seeing it through the biggest revolution in Belgian beer since the switch from gruit to hops. In 2008, InBev took over Anheuser Busch, brewer of Budweiser. It was almost a case of a mouse swallowing an elephant, added the AB to the company’s name, and turned the Leuven-based Belgian brewery into the biggest producer of beer in the world.
Four years later he added Grupo Modelo, which brews Corona beer, and business magazine Barron’s named him CEO of the year for the way the $7 billion price tag for that acquisition was soon paid for by cost-cutting and synergy.
Another four years, and in 2016 AB InBev, standing at number one, took over SABMiller, the number two. After that, the company was untouchable in the number one slot. But it came at a cost: £79 billion, or 50% more than the value of SABMiller shares at the time.
Since then the company has struggled with debt, worth $82.7 billion at the end of last year. It sold off its Australian activities to build down debt, but the problem remains.
The share price reflects the turn in AB InBev’s fortunes. In 2016, just after the SABMiller acquisition, the shares stood at €122; the price is now €58.
Brito will be replaced by a fellow Brazilian – Michel Doukeris, currently a leading executive of the American branch, and the man responsible for the development of hard seltzers, which arrive in Belgium just months before their creator.
“After a careful and rigorous selection process, the board of directors is delighted that the next CEO is from our own reserve of leadership talent,” said chairman Martin Barrington in a press release. “Michel is the right leader to take the company to the next stage of organic growth and success.”