Dear Mr. Bosteels – congratulations with you recently selling your family brewery to AB InBev. I have to admit I don’t get it – I mean, why you did it. I wrote a similar Open Letter to Mr. Carlos Britto a fortnight ago, since I couldn’t understand his motivation either. I am hoping you can send me even the smallest note so I can understand why you sold Bosteels. By the way, Mr. Britto has not responded yet. I suppose he is busy counting pennies and cannot be bothered by just another beer blogger asking questions. So be it. I hope you are able to reply – I expect you to have finished counting your own pennies by now.
When reading the official statement, some remarks stuck to me. ‘After seven generations I am happy to take this opportunity to hand over the Bosteels brands to a Belgian brewery who’s capable facilitating and ensuring future success and growth, nationally and internationally.’ A beautiful sentence with almost kaleidoscopic qualities: there’s so much in there, so many more questions are being raised by it! For example, your brands Kwak and Karmeliet grew at a rate of 20 to 40 percent year on year, both nationally yet mainly internationally, and that’s quite the achievement. No reason either to assume this growth was going to slow down, as far as I know. So, did you need help continuing this growth or was it too much for your team? I don’t believe this growth rate is too slow for you in general so I exclude that – remains the question how AB InBev can help continuing this growth, as they are cost cutters?
What really struck me was you calling AB InBev ‘a Belgian Brewery’. Sure, the seat of the company is still in Belgium but that is for tax reasons only and some Belgian families are still minority shareholders, but essentially AB InBev is a Brazilian-ran operation, headquartered in a schmuck NYC office, with as much eye for individual beers and their historical characteristics as a Taliban soldier. Remember how they tried to move production of Hoegaarden Wit to Jupile, hoping to close the Hoegaarden brewery? Then again, your own brewery is too small for the total production anyway and tens of thousands of hectoliters Kwak and Karmeliet have been brewed elsewhere (mainly at Palm breweries I believe) for years, so this may be but an academic question. However: calling AB InBev a Belgian Brewery calls for a new Bosteels brewery logo, using sands and an ostrich.
I suppose the real reason is in the ‘seven generations’ issue. I do not know for sure but suspect you deal with the same issue as Jan Toye did, finding yourself without succession within the family. I immediately admit I would not want to be in either of your shoes: dealing with issues like these requires Salomon wisdom. Mr. Toye sought and found stewardship for his family legacy with Dutch Bavaria, a family brewery. He felt his beers and tradition to be save there – yet, it is one of the most difficult decisions a man ever has to make, and I salute Jan Toye for his. For now I cannot bring myself to salute you that same way: it is said Duvel Moortgat was interested in buying Bosteels too, yet the deal broke on price. Duvel Moortgat is a family brewery too, in the real meaning of the phrase – like Bavaria and Palm Breweries are, and Bosteels was. Out of curiosity: what did they want to pay? As rumor has it (again), Carlos Britto paid around two hundred million Euro for Bosteels. Even if Duvel would have gone only halfway, wouldn’t you have felt better? I know I would have. But then again, it’s not my pennies.