Presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is taking aim at Bud Light owner Anheuser-Busch InBev—to investigate if it has violated its fiduciary duties.
- In a Thursday interview with Fox News host Jesse Waters, DeSantis revealed that he has called for the state pension fund manager to inquire into the state’s assets with InBev.
- DeSantis revealed that the state has $50 million invested in InBev stock, whose 11.7% valuation decline since March 31 could affect state pension funds.
- He has instructed State Board of Administration (SBA) Interim Executive Director Lamar Taylor to inquire into InBev, which could set the stage for a high-profile anti-ESG lawsuit amid DeSantis’s campaign for the presidency.
- According to Forbes, the decision to embrace a controversial transgender social influencer may have been driven by InBev’s internal environmental, social, and governance (ESG) decisions, which could have implications for a lawsuit, given its financial losses.
Why It’s Important
On April 1, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney released a cross-promotional Instagram video with Bud Light, revealing that their face had been added to the side of Bud Light cans and promoting the company’s ongoing March Madness campaign. Subsequently, an interview with Bud Light Vice President of Marketing Alissa Heinerscheid revealed that she was attempting to shift the brand away from its “fratboy” image towards a new audience of young progressive beer drinkers.
Within two weeks, Bud Light’s sales precipitously dropped and have continued to do so, with sales decreasing 23.6% over the July 4 holiday weekend. Anheuser-Busch has attempted to correct the decline, backing away from Mulvaney and reinstating the company’s pro-Americana marketing campaign, but drawing negative attention from LGBTQ+ activists who viewed the act as a cowardly betrayal.
With Ron DeSantis making “anti-wokeness” a key element of his fledgling presidential bid, targeting Bud Light could potentially earn him additional credibility within the Republican base, for whom the issues of ESG and DEI are major concerns and issues in next year’s election. It could also help him address the massive lead held in the race by former President Donald Trump (50.8%), compared to DeSantis’s numbers (19.5%), according to FiveThirtyEight.
“As sales of AB InBev products within the U.S. continue to precipitously decline, reports are now emerging that large American mainstays like Costco will be pulling Bud Light from the shelves. Clearly, the Board’s mismanagement—as well as its failure to remediate the problem and repair its relationship with millions of disaffected American consumers—has led to this impasse and will continue to financially harm the SBA and other shareholders,” wrote DeSantis to the SBA.
“I, therefore, request that [the SBA] immediately initiate a review to examine how AB InBev’s conduct has impacted and continues to impact the value of SBA’s AB InBev holdings. It appears to me that AB InBev may have breached legal duties owed to its shareholders, and that a shareholder action may be both appropriate and necessary. To protect SBA and the retirees of Florida from losses attributable to AB InBev’s disregard of those duties, all options are on the table.”