A-B Names First Chief Creative Officer

New CEO August Busch IV Taps Veteran Exec Robert Lachky

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- In his first major marketing move as CEO, August Busch IV is tapping veteran executive Robert Lachky as Anheuser-Busch's first chief creative officer to steward all the brewer's agency relationships and creative output.
Bob Lachky has been named Anheuser-Busch's chief creative officer.
Bob Lachky has been named Anheuser-Busch's chief creative officer.

Mr. Lachky had been the brewer's ad chief until summer 2005, when he was pushed out of that job to instead lead A-B's "Here's to Beer" industry push in a shakeup reportedly led by the new CEO's father, August Busch III.

It is not immediately clear how the move impacts Marlene Coulis, who succeeded Mr. Lachky as the brewer's VP-brand management. But two people familiar with the switch said they thought her role would remain largely unchanged.

Star on the rise
There has been plenty of evidence in recent weeks that Mr. Lachky's star is once again on the rise at the brewer, which spent more than $600 million in measured media last year. Mr. Lachky was one of five A-B executives recently named to the brewer's strategy committee. And his "Here's to Beer" work earned him the industry's "Service Award" at the National Beer Wholesalers Association conference in Orlando, Fla., last month, an honor some in attendance were overheard referring to as "Here's to Bob."

A-B declined to confirm Mr. Lachky's new title, but the brewer's marketing VP, Michael Owens, in a statement said Mr. Lachky was getting a new role. "As we continue to expand our portfolio of brands and adjust our methods of advertising to meet the needs of today's consumers, we have created a winning combination, using the unique skills of two of our best marketers. Bob Lachky will manage our advertising development and our advertising agencies along with his current responsibilities of global industry development. Marlene Coulis will focus her efforts on our brand strategy and positioning, our look at retail, new brand innovation, and the management of our brand marketing department."

Working closely
August Busch IV worked closely with Mr. Lachky on the U.S. brewer's marketing efforts for much of the past two decades. "It's very clear that young August trusts Bob as a right-hand man," said one person knowledgeable about the move. "Bob is going to be an integral part of the new regime."

A major focus of the company's new order will be finding a way to deal with beer's continued market-share losses to wine and spirits, a trend that has been particularly pronounced among domestic macrobrewers such as A-B, which controls nearly 50% of the U.S. beer market.

Mr. Busch's comments to distributors at recent industry events have led many to conclude he intends to move A-B into the spirits business, likely by acquisition. Speculation as centered on Absolut, the reportedly on-the-block Swedish vodka giant, and a possible joint venture with Bacardi.

A-B's marketing challenges will also include the brewer's planned internet-based TV network, Bud.TV, which is slated to launch in February, as well as managing a stable of brands that keeps growing. A-B has added more than 30 brands to its stable in the past year. It announced plans this week for a new energy drink called "180 Blue."

Buyout speculation
In an unrelated development, A-B spent much of the earlier part of this week deflecting speculation in a British newspaper concerning a possible buyout of the company by hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert, whose holdings include Sears and K-Mart.

Most Wall Street analysts immediately denounced the rumor as unrealistic given A-B stock currently trades at about 20 times its earnings, considered a rich multiple for a buyout target with a $36 billion market capitalization. They also said Mr. Lampert historically preferred retail targets.
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