Carlos Brito Speaks

I went to hear Carlos Brito, CEO of AB InBev, speak last week at Washington University. It was his first public appearance in St. Louis, and I was excited to have the opportunity to hear him speak.

This town went nuts when it heard that our beloved Anheuser Busch was going to be bought by InBev. It was as if the crown jewel of St. Louis was being stolen. Washington University sent out notices before the event regarding its intent to have an open conversation and to not bring in signs or protest the event. That made it all the more intriguing.

Carlos was great. He used a PowerPoint slide deck with about 5 slides. He talked about the history of the company, growing from a South American brewery to a global leader. He talked about its Dream, its People and its Culture. They were simple concepts, he was clearly passionate about them, and they guide his intentions. They have been his guide for 20 years.

He also talked about the importance of quality people and the need to find them as they graduate from college so that they can grow up in the AB InBev culture. I felt the need to ask him about that since they have been buying companies (their AB purchase was huge) and integrating them – needing to align a significant number of people to the InBev culture. His answer was that the guiding framework had been in place before the acquisition and continues on unchanged. I have to say that I question how such a big acquisition can occur without changing the fabric of the organization.

One of the rumors in St. Louis is the extreme cost cutting that Carlos has initiated. I think he did a good job of communicating his beliefs on investing in things that consumers value, be it sports and entertainment and quality product – rather than fancy offices and corporate jets.

I don’t know if AB InBev is in sync. Of course there are lots of rumors about killing the value that they bought. I saw a few key elements missing from their core documents. But I have to say, Carlos is a compelling leader. One who isn’t in his position by accident.



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