Anson Frericks, the former president of sales and distribution for Anheuser-Busch, forecasted that Bud Light and other brands marketed by the firm would struggle until executives make clear that they prioritize serving customers rather than engaging in social issues.
Bud Light garnered controversy among conservatives after the brand partnered with influencer Dylan Mulvaney, a man who claims to be a woman and documented his purported gender transition on social media. Frericks, who spent a decade as an executive at Anheuser-Busch before he departed to launch Strive Asset Management last year, said in a Monday interview with The Daily Wire that the company saw a significant culture shift during his tenure.
“When I first joined, it was the world’s largest private equity firm that happened to sell beer. It was a very merit-based culture,” he remarked. “If you take a look at the 10 principles when I first joined, they said: ‘This is a meritocracy, we recruit people better than ourselves.’ If you take a look at their 10 principles now, they say: ‘We’re judged by the diversity of our teams.’”
The core business principles Anheuser-Busch currently lists indeed place workforce diversity and assisting communities before cost management and ensuring superior value.
Frericks also noted that Anheuser-Busch has pivoted toward the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, also known as ESG, over the past decade. While corporate sustainability issues were once “relegated to the footnotes” of the company’s annual reports as recently as five years ago, the firm now publishes extensive documents recounting their commitment to reducing climate change, hiring workforces diversified with respect to race and sex, and enacting other policies which tend to distract from or decrease profits.
“No one really spoke about it. And the company, they would just focus on good business practices. Their environmental standards were using less aluminum every single year because it was more margin accretive,” Frericks said of the sustainability efforts during most of his time at the firm. “And by last year, it was all about ESG and everything they were doing to promote ESG. Seems like there was too much of a focus on ESG and not necessarily as much of a focus on the bottom line.”
Anheuser-Busch has previously boasted about its perfect Corporate Equality Index score from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ political organization in the United States. The group recently removed the company from the initiative because executives missed a “key moment” to defend Mulvaney and threatened to dock points unless the firm moves to clarify its commitments to the LGBTQ movement.
Frericks observed that Netflix faced a similar sanction from the Human Rights Campaign two years ago after the platform released a comedy special in which Dave Chappelle mocked elements of transgender ideology. The company’s stock price has since risen 50% even after managers refused to denounce Chappelle, instead opting to inform customers and disgruntled employees that they decline to censor content from the executive level.
“I think investors can get over that if their stock improves, and things can improve by putting in this culture of excellence, not when it gets involved in political issues,” Frericks said with respect to Anheuser-Busch, which has seen shares decline more than 10% in recent weeks.
The Daily Wire asked Frericks to predict the status of Bud Light one year from now. He forecasted “a long, hot, dry summer for Anheuser-Busch.”
“I think that you’re going to see sales continue to be down because customers, it’s too easy for them to switch to other brands, and they’re seeing the impact of their results,” he continued. “If they want those customers back, they have an easy decision that they can make, which is saying, ‘We want Bud Light customers back, therefore Bud Light is not going to get involved with political issues moving forward.’ If not, they’re probably going to be in a worse position next year and their sales will continue to decline.”
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