In the world of finance and investments, Bill Gates has made an unexpected and intriguing move by showing unwavering faith in Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), even in the face of significant challenges. The saga begins with an advertising campaign featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which inadvertently ignited a culture war in the United States. This polarizing campaign led to a right-wing backlash and a subsequent decline in Bud Light’s sales, causing AB InBev’s stock to plummet.1
Bud Light Weathering the Storm: Gates Trust’s Optimism
Amidst these obstacles, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust made a bold and surprising move. During this turbulent period, the trust purchased a substantial 1.7 million shares of AB InBev, valued at over $96 million. Although the investment initially didn’t yield positive returns, with AB InBev’s stock declining nearly 2% post-purchase and down 6% for the year, Gates seems undeterred.
One of the intriguing aspects of Gates’ investment in AB InBev is the company’s diversified portfolio beyond Bud Light. While Bud Light faced headwinds, other AB InBev brands like Corona and Stella Artois continued to thrive domestically and internationally. In fact, AB InBev’s international sales growth, which far exceeded expectations at 5%, compensated for the slump in the US market. The company operates in 150 countries and boasts a portfolio of 630 brands, including local favorites like Aguila in Colombia and Harbin in China.
Michel Doukeris, AB InBev’s CEO, outlined a strategy to resurrect Bud Light amidst adversity. He emphasized the importance of focusing on beer, steering clear of divisive debates, and concentrating on platforms beloved by consumers, such as the NFL, Folds of Honor, and Music.
A Broader Investment Horizon: Gates’ Interest in Bud Light and Beer
Bill Gates’ foray into the beer industry doesn’t end with AB InBev. Despite his public statement of not being a big beer drinker, his investment choices tell a different story.2 Gates invested over $900 million in Heineken, which secured him a substantial 3.76% stake in the renowned Dutch brewery. This move followed Gates’ earlier investment of $392 million in Femsa, a major Mexican brewer that subsequently sold its brewery to Heineken.
Despite its rocky start, Gates’ investment in AB InBev underscores his confidence in the company’s long-term prospects.3 The investment was made during a period that encompassed the fallout from Bud Light’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which led to a transphobic backlash and a decline in the company’s core customer base.
While Bud Light’s challenges have been evident, AB InBev remains optimistic about the brand’s potential for a comeback. A survey of approximately 170,000 US consumers during the second quarter revealed that most Americans still hold a favorable view of Bud Light, with 80% expressing either a “favorable or neutral” perception of the brand.
In recent developments, Modelo Especial, a Mexican lager, surpassed Bud Light as the best-selling beer in the US, marking a significant shift in consumer preferences. Despite this, Gates remains resolute in his trust’s investment in AB InBev, reflecting his strategic diversification and belief in the enduring appeal of the beer industry.
Bill Gates’ investment in AB InBev during a challenging period for Bud Light showcases his confidence in the company’s resilience and the beer industry’s broader potential. Despite initial setbacks, Gates remains committed to his diversified portfolio in the beer world, extending his interests beyond his personal beverage preferences. This investment journey highlights Gates’ unique finance approach and willingness to explore unexpected opportunities in diverse sectors. While the road ahead may still hold uncertainties, one thing is clear: Bill Gates’ strategic investments continue to intrigue and captivate the financial world.
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- “Bill Gates’ foundation gave Bud Light a nearly $100 million stamp of approval.” QZ.
Ananya Bhattacharya. September 2023.
- “Bill Gates’ foundation trust bets big on Bud Light comeback.” Fox Business. Breck Dumas . September 7, 2023.