New boss for the largest beer company in the world

After 17 years of service at AB InBev, Carlos Brito is handing over the reins to Michel Doukeris, the former North American board member. The share price rises.

Michel Doukeris takes over.

JThe question of succession in the world’s largest beer group has now been clarified: With Michel Doukeris, a Brazilian will once again be in charge of AB InBev, the brewing group to which beer brands such as Budweiser, Beck’s, Stella Artois and Corona belong. The 48-year-old manager will take up his new position on July 1, the company announced on Thursday. The board of directors unanimously agreed on Doukeris after a “rigorous selection process”, according to the announcement. According to the Bloomberg news agency, Spencer Stuart headhunters had also looked for external candidates on behalf of the company beforehand, but ultimately the board of directors decided on a successor from within its own ranks.

So far, Michel Doukeris has headed the important North American business. The manager with Greek roots has worked for the company for 25 years. The chemical engineer and marketing specialist has also earned his spurs in the growing business in China. On his way to the top, the father of two also held managerial positions in South Korea and Brazil.

Carlos Brito tritt ab.
Carlos Brito tritt ab.: Image: action press

Doukeris succeeds Carlos Brito, who is giving up his post in New York after 17 years and leaving the company. He will also not – as was previously speculated – move to the company’s board of directors. With the departure of Carlos Brito, an era comes to an end for AB InBev: The Brazilian worked for AB InBev for more than 30 years, although the company did not exist in its current form at the time. Brito began his career in 1989 at the Brazilian brewing company Brahma – one of the most important germ cells of what would later become the beer giant. Brito is considered to be the main architect of today’s group. Through several large takeovers, he has created the largest brewery group in the world: First he merged the Brazilian nucleus AmBev with the Belgian brewing company Interbrew, and in 2008 he took over the American beer icon Anheuser-Busch for 52 billion dollars in a hostile takeover. Shortly thereafter, the Mexican corona brewer Grupo Modelo was taken over.

Turning point for the SAB Miller takeover

He trimmed the acquired companies with cost discipline for efficiency, several small breweries were closed, the beer was brewed in huge quantities in large plants. He was supported on his bold and aggressive shopping spree by his foster father, the investor, major shareholder and multi-billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann. The coronation and at the same time a turning point in Brito’s career was the takeover of the biggest rival SABMiller – at that time the global number two – in 2016 for around 100 billion dollars: Since then, every fourth beer in the world has been brewed in an AB InBev brewery. According to the company, seven of the ten most valuable beer brands belong to the group.

ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV

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To the detailed view

But since the SABMiller coup, the company with its 164,000 employees has also been sitting on a huge mountain of debt. Critics complain that AB InBev could have choked on the huge bite. Since the record high of more than 120 euros in autumn 2015, AB InBev’s share price has almost halved again. In order to reduce debt, the management cut dividends even before the pandemic, and parts of the company are being sold again and again.

There is no money for further acquisitions. This can also be read between the lines in the communication on the change in leadership. Board of Directors Chairman Martin Barrington can be quoted as saying that Doukeris is the right man to lead the company into a new phase of “organic growth”. It is still unclear who will head AB InBev’s North American business in the future. According to the company, this should be decided before July 1st. The news was happily received on Thursday, also because the company got off to a surprisingly strong start to the year despite the corona pandemic. AB InBev’s share price rose approximately 5 percent.