Organizations, like living organisms, are born to die. There are a few however that are able to prolong their life and are successful in defying death. They outlive their peers by using a highly evolved system of vital organs, possessed of fierce survival instincts and a stem cell-like ability to regenerate critical body parts over and over again.
But the reality is that eventually, death comes knocking. Organizations often die a natural death once they have fulfilled their role in a mature marketplace. Others eventually kick the proverbial bucket because they underestimated the ability of an unknown competitor who emerges and takes them out. The corporate graveyard is full of organizations who died prematurely shortly after birth. Some of these promising organizations passed on to the great beyond while they were still in adolescence and a few lived to a ripe old age to be eulogized for their longevity, creative innovation and sustaining ability over multigenerations.
But what happened at Anheuser-Busch is another kind of death. I call it death by acquisition. InBev, a Brazilian-owned, savvy and laser-focused entity, possessed three important attributes that were absent at A-B by the time the hostile takeover began: first, the foresight to change before it was necessary, second a clear and unifying vision of the future and third, InBev has the instinctual fortitude to respond in real time with a demonstrated ability of constructive impatience.
For InBev, the future is not the place you are going. It is the place you create. For years InBev's future included Anheuser-Busch and they were successful in making that future a reality. When the future arrived A-B was ripe for the picking, a low-hanging fruit, plump from its success, yet dangling on the branch of irrelevance.
It's yet another American story of one of the greatest brand names in this nation's illustrious history that found success through shared innovation demonstrated by its sagacity and tenacity to continually re-invent itself. But in the end, A-B lost its vitality. The body became weary. The vision failed. It became hard of hearing the call to change. When the end finally came, this corporate icon fought a galiant fight of survival seeking to find blue ocean -- but it was too late. It lacked the strength to prevail against a younger, more able-bodied fighter with a carefully-honed strategy and a financially fortified position.
My friends, one wonders, if the mighty A-B at the ripe old age of 150 had lost the will to live. Some would say what happened was a deliberate case of corporate suicide. Others would claim that A-B had moved gradually into a state of hospice anchored on the memories of its past successes, comfortable with its hard-earned position of king of beers and living day to day knowing that death was lurking in its wake.
Tonight we welcome to the Walker Speakers Series the reporter who covered that battle of the beverage titans and has now shared the inside story with us through her best-seller "Dethroning The King: The Hostile Takeover Of Anheuser Busch". Please join me in welcoming to Webster University - Ms. Julie Macintosh.
""I believe your value emanates from your inner strength. It comes from the courage of your convictions, and the ability to see in yourself the value that you possess." "
- Dr. Benjamin Akande
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