Friday, June 27, 2008, 11:38 AM

The Clydesdale Controversy

Anheiser-Busch, Budweiser's parent and a 156-year institution in St. Louis, has rejected an unsolicited takeover bid from InBev, a global beverage giant headquartered in Belgium. While many factors are at stake in this month-long controversy, the InBev case is a reminder of the community relations challenges companies face when treading on unfamiliar soil, particularly when the acquirer is a foreign company. Many St. Louis residents expressed confusion and sadness at the prospect of A-B turning itself over to foreign hands. Opponents of the takeover launched a website to stop the deal in its tracks. InBev cut an obligatory video to show its commitment to the St. Louis community, but so far it isn't enough. As U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill told InBev's CEO, Missouri citizens are left wanting more.

InBev is not the first foreign company to face such resistance. Washington went wild over the prospect of Dubai Ports World managing certain operations at eight U.S. Ports. Lenovo saw local resistance to its acquisition of an IBM personal computer manufacturing plant in North Carolina. The list goes on.

Whether a company is establishing a presence in a new state or country, a well-planned grassroots "ground game" is in order. A strategic information campaign that minimizes confusion, accounts for local sentiment, and eases the uncertainty of local residents and media can help a company achieve its objectives.

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