This Bud's not for you, Paublo

by John J. Hopkins |
Jun. 15, 2008, 7:17am

John J. Hopkins

The comedy "Mr. Deeds" is an Adam Sandler vehicle, released in 2002 to only modest success. It was a re-make of the Frank Capra classic "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," and serves as today's movie metaphor.

Following a well-worn formula, both the re-make and its predecessor deal with an old, but constantly renewing theme: the struggle of the rights of the individual against the transparent evils of unchecked capitalism.

The hero, Longfellow Deeds, becomes suddenly and obscenely wealthy. But as is so often the case, heavy is the burden of money on the conscience of the righteous man.

He must choose between profits and people, naturally in the end foregoing the easy path of an increased bottom line for more difficult ventures in the pursuit of that which is presumed morally correct. But it be that life would imitate art.

It started as a very bad rumor, almost a joke. A foreign conglomerate, based in Belgium and run by Brazilians, taking over Anheuser-Busch -- the number one brewer in America – please… But alas, the rain does fall upright and the sun does rise in the west, as it now appears that the unthinkable is now very much possible. You just might ask yourself: How did we get to such a sorry state of affairs?

In Bev NV/SA, is a Belgian-based, Brazilian managed operation with over 89,000 world wide employees. It is now the world's largest brewer. Like a hungry wolf, it eyes the publicly traded Anheuser-Busch as a fat and ready target. Unreigned in appetite, it sees the chance to acquire the prize in a hostile takeover, offering an approximate 20 percent bonus to all who would sell to the highest bidder, national pride be damned.

Hidden beneath the temporary windfall to the few is the long term pain to the many, within the brewery walls and outside.

In order to recoup the initial premiums paid, there would have to be instituted over $1.5 BILLION of cost savings measures, surely resulting in large scale layoffs, cut backs and curtailments. The burden would fall first on the current employees caught in the squeeze of a global economy without conscience or remorse, but the long term effects would be far more wide-ranging.

A-B is so much more than just a hometown company. It is a symbol to the world of the best of the brewer's art, a pride that goes back centuries, born in Europe and refined in America. It is the Clydesdales, the Dalmatians and the fire wagon, all hailing the arrival of the King of Beers. It is salary and benefits to over 6,000 area employees, supporting in turn the stores, the malls, the banks and the other bastions of the local economy.

It is a first class, civic minded, corporate neighbor, always standing ready to lend a helping hand, contributing over $12 million to local charities last year. The Susan G. Komen, the United Way and countless other charities are well served by Pestalozi Street.

If the sale is allowed, most, if not all, of the former largesse would evaporate. To its new masters, now thousands of miles away, the St. Louis area is but one small cog in the machinery of commerce, deserving no special care or concern, nothing but the cold analysis of the stark bottom line. Increased government subsidies to the dis-employed is a nuisance for the locals to cope with, most assuredly not their concern.

Resistance to the proposed takeover can be found in the Website ""

By logging on, you can register your voice of protest. The force of public pressure can and must be brought to bear on a matter subject to governmental approval. In this election year, a potential economic disaster to a swing state should be of interest to both candidates. We can but wait, wish and wonder.

The passing of an American icon is sad for any reason. It is unforgivable if it is allowed to be sold to foreign interests, without roots or connection to native soil. When the great American motorcycle company Harley-Davidson, bloodied by Japanese competitors teetered on the brink of extinction, the public rallied to prevent the loss of part of our common heritage. To be sure, putting the home of the "Great American Lager" on the auction block is an essentially private business matter, arguably of concern to only those directly involved. But such short-sighted analysis misses the bigger, more significant point.

Bit by bit, piece by piece, the heritage that we hold as common is disappearing. The legacy that we share as Americans is not only in the history we learn, but in the products we make, the companies that feed and give the dignity of work to our people, in the pride of jobs expertly done.

When this vanishes, a piece of our collective soul goes with it. For the generations to follow, we need to preserve that which binds, that which distinguishes, that which marks us as not just citizens of the world, but as holders of the American spirit.

We commit violence to history if it can later be said that the legacy passed down to us was not conquered, was not stolen, but sold. We must fight to keep the Eagle flying.

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