Marlboro Parent Company Sells $2.3B Stake After Transgender Ad Backlash

The company that owns Marlboro cigarettes is selling $2.3 billion worth of shares in major brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Altria Dropping Millions of Shares

U.S. manufacturer Altria Group, which produces Marlboro cigarettes, is planning to sell its shares in Anheuser-Busch InBev, the parent company of Bud Light. The announcement came on Thursday, following controversy over the Bud Light ad campaign featuring transgender influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney.

Altria Group will sell 35 million of its 197 million shares stake and has the option of selling an extra 5.25 million shares. Those 35 million shares were worth $2.3 billion when the market closed on Wednesday. Altria became a shareholder in 2016 and eventually acquired a 10% stake in AB InBev. AB InBev reportedly plans to buy back $200 million worth of Altria’s shares. 

Public Announcement

Altria chief executive Billy Gifford made the announcement in a public statement, calling the sale “an opportunistic transaction that realizes a portion of the substantial return on our long-term investment.”

“Our continued investment reflects ongoing confidence in ABI’s long-term strategies, premium global brands and experienced management team,” he continued. Despite their confidence, U.S. sales of Bud Light have taken a significant hit in the last year, a drop which has been connected to the call to boycott the beer brand due to its collaboration with Mulvaney.

A Controversial Partnership

In April 2023, Mulvaney shared a sponsored post on social media promoting a Bud Light contest. A wave of negative backlash hit both her and the beer brand. The brand also sent her a personalized beer to celebrate her gender transition, which led to conservative groups accusing the formerly “masculine” beer label of “going woke.”

Certain groups met the partnership with hostility, calling for a U.S. boycott of all Bud Light products. One viral trend even showed Bud Light consumers dumping cans and bottles of Bud Light beer.

Public figures like rapper Kid Rock, politician and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and NFL player Trae Waynes also joined in on the public derision and boycott. 

Mulvaney Speaks Up

Not only was the beer company slammed by anti-LGBTQ consumers, but it was also condemned by LGBTQ activists and spokespeople. This included Mulvaney herself, who claimed that the company never reached out to her despite receiving death threats and intimidation from their consumers.

“For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse in my opinion than not hiring a trans person at all because it gives customers permission to be as transphobic and hateful as they want,” she told reporters. 

Later, a spokesperson for the company would issue a statement responding to Mulvaney’s criticisms, claiming that the company remained “committed to the programs and partnerships we have forged over decades with organizations across a number of communities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”

No Longer the U.S. Number 1

Just weeks after the fallout, Bud Light lost its position as the fastest-selling beer in the U.S. and was replaced by Modelo. 

In February, the company acknowledged that Bud Light sales had fallen off in the U.S., with overall annual revenue for AB InBev falling by 9.5% in the US market, which it explained was “primarily due to the volume decline of Bud Light.”

The company also owns popular beer brands like Stella Artois, Corona, and Becks. Though Bud Light’s U.S. sales plummeted last year, the boycott appears to have had little effect on its global sales, with other countries taking little notice of the controversy. 

Global revenue for AB InBev increased by 7.8% in 2023, bringing its global annual profits to more than $6.1 billion.

The post Marlboro Parent Company Sells $2.3B Stake After Transgender Ad Backlash first appeared on Swift Feed.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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