Bill Gates’ foundation buys Anheuser-Busch stock worth $95 million after Bud Light financial fallout

Bill Gates’ foundation trust bought 1.7 million shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev after the company experienced a few months of controversy and declining stock prices. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust bought the shares — valued at about $95 million — last quarter, according to an SEC filing.

What is the controversy surrounding Bud Light?

Anheuser-Busch took a hit earlier this year when Bud Light sales dipped following an Instagram ad campaign with Dylan Mulvaney. The transgender actress and activist partnered with the beer company on April 1, outraging many conservatives. 

Some people, including Kid Rock, called for a boycott of the beer, and reported sales dropped in the month that followed. Bud Light, which was once the nation’s top selling beer, saw a 23% decline in May from the same period the year before. Sales slipped again in June, down 28% compared to the same period last year, according to Bump Williams, which tracks alcohol sales. 

Bud Light was overtaken by Modelo Especial in the No. 1 spot, according to consumer behavior data analytics firm Circana. 

After the backlash over the Mulvaney partnership, Anheuser-Busch attempted to boost its image by releasing patriotic ads and a statement from CEO Brendan Whitworth, who said, “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”

While Bud Light is still popular, Anheuser-Busch has felt the aftereffects of the turmoil and in July said it was eliminating close to 2% of workers — about 380 of their roughly 19,000 employees. 

In its second quarter results report, the company said the entire beer industry declined in the quarter. Anheuser-Busch said it surveyed 170,000 customers through a third-party research firm and found 80% are favorable or neutral toward the Bud Light brand.

Still, the company’s second quarter revenue declined 10.5%, its sales to wholesalers declined 15% and its sales to retailers declined 14%, according to the report. This underperformance is attributed primarily to the decline of Bud Light. 

What is Anhesuer Busch’s stock price history?

On March 31, the day before Mulvaney posted the ad, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA (BUD) was valued at $66.53, a high for the year. 

The stock price dipped as the controversy grew and dropped to $53.40 a share on May 31, a new low. The price has yet to bounce back and is currently $56.20 a share on Sept. 7.

The stock is down $3.42, or 5.74%, year to date.

How much is Bill Gates worth?

The company gained an extremely high profile investor with the Gates Foundation trust, which acquired the shares in June after the company reported its decreased earnings.

Bill Gates — who is worth an estimated $111.2 billion, according to Forbes — invests in many companies through the trust. The trust’s major investments include Walmart; Microsoft, the company Gates co-founded; and Deere & Co., which manufactures agricultural equipment under the John Deere brand.

Earlier this year it was reported that Gates — who has said he’s “not a big beer drinker” — bought a 3.76% stake in the beer company Heineken, according to Reuters.

The trust’s 1.7 million shares gives the Gates Foundation about a 0.1% stake in Anheuser-Busch InBev.

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