Belgium: AB InBev shakes up the board

AB InBev will replace four members of its board at the company’s annual shareholders' meeting on 24 April 2019.

Already known was the fact that AB InBev’s Chairman of the Board, Olivier Goudet is departing, reportedly because of concerns of a conflict of interest. The 55-year old French manager is partner and CEO of Luxemburg-based JAB Holding Company which in the last years has bought and afterwards merged Dr Pepper Snapple and Keurig Green Mountain for a combined amount of USD32,6 billion. (, 6.3.2019)

He will be replaced as Chairman of the Board by Martin J. Barrington, the former Chief Executive of cigarette maker Altria Group. Altria holds a 10.2 percent economic interest in AB InBev since Altria’s ownership in SABMiller was transferred to AB Inbev with the sale of SABMiller to Anheuser-Busch on October 10th, 2016. By that time Mr. Barrington became part of AB InBev’s Board of Directors.

“We believe that his experience as a former Chairman and CEO of a listed, broadly-held multinational company means that he brings strong qualifications to the role. He is an expert in governance, regulatory topics and operational excellence, and left his previous role with a recognized track-record for shareholder value creation. Mr. Barrington has been fully retired from his previous role as Chairman and CEO for almost a year and has the time required as Chairperson of our Board to dedicate to AB InBev,” said AB InBev is a press statement.

Other Members of the Board to step down at the annual shareholder’s meeting are 3G Capital’s managing partner Alexandre Behring and Carlos Alberto da Veiga Sicupira. Both are Brazilian citizens and representatives of BRC, a company that bundles AB InBev’s Brazilian shareholdersMoreover both are co-founders of 3G Capital, the company which implemented its strategy of debt-fueled dealmaking and ferocious cost-cutting on AB InBev.

Despite the fact, that two co-founders of 3G capital are leaving, the influence of the Brazilian sharholders on AB InBev remains huge. Two more co-founder of 3G Capital, Paulo Alberto Lemann and Marcel Herrmann Telles remain Members of the Board of AB InBev. Besides, Sicupira will be replaced by his daughter Cecilia Sicupira and Behring by Mr. Claudio Garcia, another Brazilian citizen and closely related to the group.

Last in line to step down is Stéfan Descheemaeker, Chief Executive of Nomad Foods and representative of the Belgian families. He will be replaced by Sabine Chalmers, an American citizen, graduated with a bachelor's degree in Law from the London School of Economics. She was chief legal officer at AB InBev for over a decade and is now general counsel at the UK telecoms group BT.

The independent director seat left by Mr. Goudet, will be filled by Dr. Xiaozhi Liu, a German citizen born in China. She is the founder and CEO of ASL Automobile Science & Technology (Shanghai) Co and is an independent director of Autoliv and Fuyao Glass Group.

According to sources of The Financial Times, “the changes are intended to telegraph to shareholders that the brewer’s board is determined to reverse a period of steep share price declines.”

In 2018 it became apparent that AB InBev’s strategy which was heavily influenced by 3G Capital’s management methods, was not working any longer. The share price dropped by more than one third in one year and CEO Carlos Brito and his CFO Felipe Dutra had to announce a dividend cut by half (, 25.10.2018). It became apparent that the company needed a new strategy ( 1.3.2019) in order to pay down more than USD100 billion in debt racked up from acquisitions in the last years.

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