Despite Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch’s recent struggles, billionaire investor Bill Gates has poured nearly $100 million into the beer maker.
A former executive of the brand warned simply, it is a “mistake.”
“Bill Gates is definitely making a mistake,” former Anheuser-Busch executive Anson Frericks said. “Earlier this year, he already made a $900 million mistake when he invested into one of Anheuser-Busch’s largest rivals, Heineken. He did that earlier this year. And since that investment, Heineken’s down about 10%, whereas the broader markets are up 10%.”
“So if I was looking for advice on investing to software companies, tech companies, I might go to Bill Gates. But if you’re looking at the beer industry, he doesn’t have a great track record of investing in winners at this point,” he added while on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” Wednesday.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the funds of the foundation the Microsoft co-founder still runs with his ex-wife, purchased 1.7 million shares of Anheuser-Busch last quarter, according to a regulatory filing. The transaction is valued at $95 million.
Gates’ purchase comes amid financial woes for the company after a controversial Bud Light marketing campaign sparked a boycott from some conservatives. Bud Light also drew the ire of LGBTQ activists for not doing more to defend its decision.
Sales took a clear hit. Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a steep drop in profits as a result of the boycott, with U.S. revenue dropping 10.5% in the second quarter, while earnings before taxes, interest and depreciation fell 28.2%. The company has laid off hundreds of workers amid the fallout.
Last month, Bud Light lost its 22-year reign as the best-selling beer in the U.S. on an annual basis, when Mexican lager Modelo Especial became the top-selling beer for 2023 after beating Bud Light in sales for months.
Frericks argued, given the company’s recent struggles to resonate with its primary consumers, Bill Gates is “not necessarily” going to connect with the “everyday” beer drinker.
“For the company’s sake, they’d probably be better off [with] maybe somebody who is more of, kind of the every man type of person, maybe like a Rob Gronkowski or somebody like that was investing into Anheuser-Busch, not necessarily somebody like Bill Gates. That doesn’t really resonate with sort of that common man that everyday Bud Light beer drinker.”
The executive has been critical of his former employer namely for what he argues was putting politics over shareholders and consumers.
“They have yet to really clearly come out and say who they are actually brewing their beer for,” he said.
Anheuser-Busch did not immediately respond to Fox News Digitals’ request for comment.
As an outspoken critic of woke politics in business, Frericks is also the co-founder and president of Strive Asset Management. The firm emphasizes acting in the sole interest of shareholders rather than getting entangled in environmental social and corporate governance (ESG) investments.
Bud Light and the parent company Anheuser-Busch are still deciding what type of company they want to be, Frerick says.
“There’s one camp that says that Anheuser-Busch, they have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and to take a look at just providing great products and services for their shareholders. That’s the camp that I am in,” he said.
“There’s another camp, this is in the BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard camp, that would have Anheuser-Busch focus on more stakeholders and stakeholder capitalism, having them not necessary focus on shareholders, but activists, political organizations, others.”
Since the fallout beginning with the Dylan Mulvaney campaign, Anheuser-Busch has been working to reengage with customers by leaning into football, country music and other quintessential American favorites in its new advertising campaigns.
As Frericks notes, leadership from Anheuser-Busch has yet to “come out and say who they’re going to be focused on, who they’re going to be serving moving forward is.”
“Is it just going to be on just serving great beer that’s cold, and it’s about football and backyard barbecues for customers? Or are they going to be getting involved in these political issues?”
FOX Business’ Anders Hagstrom, Breck Dumas and Joe Toppe contributed to this report.
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