State of Florida Ron DeSantis The latest effort by the Republican presidential candidate is to inject himself and the state into the nation’s culture wars, urging the state pension fund manager to consider legal action against Bud Light’s parent company amid a conservative backlash to the beer maker’s latest marketing efforts.
In a Thursday letter obtained by CNN, DeSantis suggests AB InBev “violated its legal obligations to its shareholders” when it decided to associate itself with “radical social ideologies.” Bud Light’s sales have plummeted in the months since it entered into a minor partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, prompting a boycott from conservatives.
As the state reviews the impact of AB InBev’s recent financial collapse, “all options are on the table,” DeSantis wrote, though it’s unclear what legal recourse the state will have to challenge the multinational’s business decisions.
“We must prudently manage the finances of Florida’s hardworking law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters and first responders with a focus on growing revenue, not subsidizing an ideological agenda through virtue signaling,” DeSantis wrote in the letter. DeSantis oversees the group as a trustee along with the state’s attorney general and chief financial officer, Republicans.
Speaking to Fox News about the letter Thursday night, DeSantis said the government may consider a “derivative lawsuit” against AB InBev. Derivative lawsuits are filed on behalf of a company by shareholders alleging breach of duty against a company’s directors or officers.
CNN has reached out to AB InBev for comment.
At the end of March, Florida’s pension fund owned more than 682,000 AB InBev shares, worth nearly $46 million at the time. The company’s share price has since fallen from $66 to $58, although it remains well above its 52-week low of $44 dating back to September 2022, which was before the company’s recent controversies.
It’s not the first time DeSantis has threatened to use Florida’s $235 billion in pension investments as leverage in his political battles with corporate America. He threatened to hold Twitter shareholders accountable if he didn’t sell the social media company to Tesla CEO Elon Musk by early 2022. Later that year, DeSantis pushed the state pension board to adopt new rules prohibiting investors from considering a company or fund’s environmental and social welfare when deciding where to place Florida’s pension assets.
DeSantis’ latest salvo against what he calls “risen capitalism” follows his high-profile clashes with another corporate titan, the Walt Disney Company, over the company’s objections to a state law restricting how schools teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. DeSantis and Disney are currently involved in two separate lawsuits over a Republican move to strip the central Florida theme park of its longstanding special government powers.
Asked by Fox’s Jesse Waters if DeSantis would consider a similar move against Disney, DeSantis said, “I’m not sure we’re the right person to do that.” Florida’s pension fund held $234 million in Disney stock as of March 31.
02:23 – Source: CNN
These residents live near Disney World. Ask them what they think of DeSantis’ feud
Unlike his battle with Disney, conservative outrage against AB Inbay came before DeSantis decided to take action against the Belgian beermaker. Right-wing influencers and celebrities helped spark widespread boycotts against the company’s flagship brand, Bud Light, after it sponsored Mulvaney, a trans advocate popular on TikTok for his bubbly and positive posts. He released a brief digital ad for the company this year for NCAA March Madness, and the brand sent him a personalized can.
Amid the slump, Modelo Special became the best-selling beer in May, toppling Bud Light by more than two decades, according to NIQ data provided to consultancy Pump Williams. In June, Modelo Especial captured 8.7% of total beer sales, compared to Bud Light’s 7% share.
Bud Light sales, in dollars, have recently fallen about 25% year-over-year, according to data shared by Williams.
The company has tried to stay out of the controversy, but sales have slumped.
“We don’t want to be part of a debate that divides people. We’re in the business of bringing people together over a beer,” AB CEO Brendan Whitworth said in a statement April 14. Soon after the report was released, the company said two marketing vice presidents took a leave of absence.
Whitworth then devised a plan to provide financial assistance to its wholesalers, helping them offset sales declines and reimbursing fuel for distributors’ trucks.
Bud Light’s summer ad campaign includes partnerships with country singers and new ads featuring NFL players. The latest 60-second spot shows people enjoying Bud Light, whether they’re dealing with summer’s biggest pains, like the sun or a sudden thunderstorm while cooking.
However, DeSantis’ actions on Thursday signaled that Republicans are not done using the company as a punching bag as they seek to gain support with the party’s base. The move against Bud Light is a reminder that DeSantis can use the power of the state as governor to weigh the issues that animate Republican voters.
Charting a course in its midst, Bud Light has lost credibility among members of the LGBTQ+ community, who have been appalled by the brand’s handling of the backlash against its small partnership with Mulvaney. Because of that, Bud Light hasn’t had the benefit of a so-called boycott campaign, which can help spur sales when brands are hit with calls for boycotts.
01:08 – Source: CNN
Dylan Mulvaney Says Bud Light After Controversy Is Worse Than Not Hiring Him
Earlier this year, DeSantis praised conservative consumers for boycotting the company, telling right-wing podcaster Benny Johnson: “I’ll never drink Bud again.”
“Corporate America is trying to change our country, trying to change policy, trying to change culture. And, you know, I’d rather be governed by ‘we the people’ than corporations,” DeSantis said in the interview. “So I think pushback across the board, including Bud Light, is in order.”
Look at the staying power of neglect. DeSantis, for example, told Johnson that he and his wife would like another beer: “We actually like a stiff Guinness.”
Yet a decade ago, the Irish beer brand became the target of conservative ire when it pulled its sponsorship of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day event, excluding LGBTQ groups. In response, the Catholic League called for a boycott of Guinness.