Organisation Culture a Gung-Ho Culture Rules

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  • Topic: InBev, InBev brands, Jorge Paulo Lemann
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At InBev, a Gung-Ho Culture Rules
American Icon Anheuser,
A Potential Target, Faces
Prospect of Big Changes
By MATT MOFFETT
May 28, 2008; Page B1
Diadema, Brazil
Brazilian-managed beverage giant InBev NV isn't a household name in the U.S. now, but if it proceeds with its unsolicited bid for Anheuser-Busch Cos., its high-octane corporate culture could easily overwhelm the iconic U.S. brewer. |[pic] | |Bloomberg News/Landov | |A production line at InBev's brewery in Leuven, Belgium |

That culture is on display each workday at the 7:20 a.m. sales meeting at InBev's distribution center in this town outside São Paulo. On a recent day, supervisor Fernando Correa paced like a soccer coach before a big match as he reviewed the day's sales targets in front of about 30 blue-jacketed sales reps. Then, at the wave of Mr. Correa's hand, a salesman began pounding on a huge samba drum, and the reps belted out a raucous version of a motivational song about selling beer. When the foot-stomping, table-pounding music ended, the salesmen hopped aboard their motorbikes and headed off to nearby restaurants and mom-and-pop shops to pitch the company's beers. At InBev, a work atmosphere reminiscent of an athletic locker room is a key ingredient in a culture that also includes ferocious cost cutting and lucrative incentive-based compensation programs. The work ethic is largely the design of Jorge Paulo Lemann, a former Brazilian tennis champion who is one of InBev's chief shareholders. The Harvard-educated Mr. Lemann, 68 years old, has borrowed management techniques from such corporations as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and PepsiCo Inc, while adding a dash of Brazilian verve and flexibility. Since the company was formed four years ago, InBev has built a presence in 130 countries with 200 brands, including Stella Artois, Beck's, Labatt Blue and Brahma, and Mr. Lemann and his principal Brazilian partners, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira, have become billionaires. But it is unclear whether combining with the relentlessly striving Brazilians would appeal to tradition-oriented Anheuser-Busch. So far, Anheuser Chief Executive August A. Busch IV, 43, has reacted coolly to preliminary approaches from InBev, according to people familiar with the matter. In addition to misgivings within the Busch clan, the St. Louis-based company, with its trademark Clydesdale horse teams, is a potent symbol of Americana whose sale to a foreign company could raise political objections. (See related Breakingviews commentary.) |[pic] |

|Reuters |
|CEO Carlos Brito |

Busch managers considering a coupling with Mr. Lemann's company can't be encouraged by the fate of the managers of Belgium-based Interbrew SA, which merged with Mr. Lemann's AmBev in 2004 in a deal valued at about $11 billion to form InBev. Though the combined company had its headquarters in Belgium and an ex-Interbrew executive as its first CEO, the go-go Brazilians soon turned the tables on Interbrew. Brazilian Carlos Brito, 48, replaced the older Interbrew executive in the CEO's post in December 2005, and Brazilians have moved into most of the top positions. In a February talk at Stanford University Business School, where he himself was trained, Mr. Brito suggested that AmBev's business culture amounts to an irresistible force. "At Ambev, we had this culture that...has never changed," he said. At Interbrew, "they grew by acquiring existing businesses, and they didn't have a culture of [their] own." He said Interbrew was ripe for AmBev's embrace and ready to accept a new way of doing things. InBev's Belgian executives, analysts and investors -- and the country's political and economic elite -- say they support the...
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