Interesting piece in Crain's Chicago Business this week on the struggle MillerCoors boss Leo Kiely is facing. There are a number of components, but the key factor, the big Wahooni, is this: how do you grow both Miller Lite and Coors Light, two beers that are obviously in direct competition with each other...and with the best-selling beer in America, Bud Light. How do you put together a business plan that keeps Coors Light chugging along (the brand grew 6% in the last 12 months, very impressive indeed) and also lights a fire of focus under the flailing Miller Lite (down 4% over the same period)?
This is exactly what I was talking about almost two years ago when I called an impending MillerCoors merger a shotgun wedding. This was a merger that simply had to take place; when you're at this level in a highly consolidated business -- as mainstream brewing certainly is -- the only way to survive is to be the biggest sumbitch in the jungle. SABMiller and Molson Coors weren't big enough alone -- amazing, but true -- to take on A-B, let alone the ABIB juggernaut that was starting to look ever more real at that point. They had to merge to have a hope of winning.
And that's the sad thing about what this business has become. It's not enough to do well any more. It's about the guys at the top winning. It's about the shareholders getting a big pay-out (and taking the money and buying more stocks in hope of hitting the jackpot again when some company gets gutted). The best thing I see about the current deep recession is that these damnable masters of the universe are no longer celebrities. I hope it lasts, and we make much of people who create something other than marketing campaigns and buy-out deals.