Top A-B Sports Marketer Tony Ponturo Retires

Announcement Comes Days After Shareholders, Regulators OK Brewer's Sale to InBev

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CHICAGO ( -- One of the most powerful figures in the world of sports marketing is stepping down. Tony Ponturo, VP-global media and sports marketing, today announced he is retiring from Anheuser-Busch, only days after the No. 1 U.S. brewer's sale to Belgium-based InBev garnered key approvals from A-B shareholders and regulators.
Tony Ponturo
Tony Ponturo

"I have had a great career at Anheuser-Busch," Mr. Ponturo, 55, said in a statement. "The timing was right to move on to the next thing and new adventures."

Sources within A-B had earlier indicated that Mr. Ponturo intended to accept a retention bonus that would have kept him at A-B for at least most of next year, but that's apparently no longer the case.

A key role
In addition to managing the largest and most iconic sports-marketing machine in the U.S. since 1990, Mr. Ponturo, who joined A-B in 1982, played a key role in driving many of the strategies that helped A-B achieve its dominant share of the U.S. beer business.

Among his greatest successes: He was instrumental in the marketer's decision in the early 1990s to move media buying and planning inside the brewery, a move that is credited with creating savings and efficiencies due to the scale of A-B's ad buying.

Less successful: He spearheaded Bud.TV, A-B's failed attempt to build an online TV network. (The site was hamstrung by stringent age-verification software and intense scrutiny from state attorneys general, and it wound up scoring only a tiny fraction of the traffic Mr. Ponturo publicly hoped to achieve.)

The dominant footprint he helped A-B carve in the sports landscape is an achievement that routinely lands him on lists of the most powerful people in sports in magazines including Sports Business Journal and BusinessWeek.

'Created a world-class operation'
"Tony has been an invaluable resource to Anheuser-Busch and to me," A-B CEO August Busch IV -- who is also stepping down after the deal closes -- said in a note to employees today. "Our company has achieved a presence and position in the United States and the world due directly to Tony and his team. In the early 1990s, he took a risk and brought our media operation in-house and created a world-class operation that has benefited A-B and our stakeholders."

The $52 billion sale of A-B to InBev last week garnered key approvals from A-B's shareholders and also the Justice Department (which requires only the sale of the relatively minor Labatt brand for the deal to go through). The deal is expected to close shortly, although no date has been announced.
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