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A-B InBev Establishes Chicago Foothold With New High-End Unit

Brewer Wants to Get Closer to Urban Consumers

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Anheuser-Busch InBev is blowing into the Windy City. The brewer, whose U.S. headquarters are in St. Louis, will establish a new Chicago outpost to oversee premium craft and imported beers, which have been a bright spot in the overall sluggish U.S. beer industry.

By locating the new business unit in Chicago, it "places us in closer touch with urban consumers, their way of thinking, lifestyle and the accounts they visit," Luiz Edmond, president of the brewer's North American division, stated in an internal memo to employees that was provided to Ad Age by the brewer.

Felipe Szpigel
Felipe Szpigel

The division will be overseen by Felipe Szpigel, a 15-year A-B InBev veteran who most recently held a global role based in New York as VP of trade marketing, including leading projects such as improving draught technology. The memo stated that the brewer's high-end marketing team, including Adam Oakley, who is VP-import, craft and specialty brands, will "transition to Chicago over time." The brewer did not yet have information on the exact address of the office.

The establishment of the Chicago-based business unit further establishes the Windy City as an American beer stronghold. MillerCoors is headquartered in Chicago, as is the beer division of Constellation Brands, which imports Corona. The move also is in line with the trend of marketers establishing urban offices. (See related story.)

A-B InBev began building its Chicago presence in 2011 when it acquired craft brewer Goose Island, which operates just west of downtown Chicago. The new business unit will include Goose Island, as well as Blue Point Brewing Co., a New York-based craft brewer that Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired earlier this year, according to the memo, which noted that "we will add dedicated sales resources within this unit to help build high-end brands in the trade."

McCarthy exits Bud Light
In an unrelated move, the brewer also announced that Rob McCarthy, the brand VP for Bud Light, will be leaving the company at the end of the summer. He will be replaced by Alexander Lambrecht, who has been with the brewer since 2005, including most recently as director of premium and super premium brands in the Asia Pacific region.

Mr. McCarthy will remain with the brewer through Sept. 2, "to ensure a smooth transition," U.S. VP-Marketing Jorn Socquet stated in an internal memo, in which he thanked Mr. McCarthy for "his many contributions."

The leadership shift on Bud Light follows other significant changes occurring under Mr. Socquet, who assumed the marketing VP role in January. The brewer recently started a media agency review. Also, Mr. Socquet recently elevated Lucas Herscovici, the former VP of U.S. digital marketing, to a newly created role called VP-consumer connections, which includes oversight of media, as well as digital and sports marketing. Media had previously been overseen by Blaise D'Sylva, who recently left the company.

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