Incompetent Corporate Exec of the Year Nominee: Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth

As Budwieiser lost billions in value since its Dylan Mulvaney fiasco, the company has remained silent. Any PR consultant would have instructed the company to get out immediately with a statement to stop the bleeding. Finally, the company’s CEO emerged from his bunker to deal with the issue. He had several options, none good. He could stand by his, uh, woman, sort of—two women actually, including his clueless vice president of marketing Alissa Heinerscheid who engineered the disaster, saying that he stood by his staff and supported their decision. That would have been brave, responsible, and stupid.

Or he could grovel an apology, saying that the company had made a dire mistake, and be prepared for the full fury of Woke World and the LGPTQ mob. That would have satisfied no one. Best of all would have been to say that Bud’s intent with the Mulvaney stunt was only to emphasize that its brews were for every American, regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity or political persuasion, the eccentrics and pariahs, the guy in the hard hat, the working mother, everyone. He could have apologized to Mulvaney for making her a target by his company’s botched messaging, and promised to avoid stumbling into controversial and divisive issues in the future.

Then he could have gone back to his office, and fired Heinerscheid.

Whitworth opted for none of these. Instead he resorted to weasel words, defined as words “used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position.” Weasel words are inherently deceitful rhetoric designed to deceive the inattentive and the none-too-bright (or drunk) into thinking something substantive had been said when it has not. The device is also cowardly, avoiding a forthright path with risks for the illusion of action when there is none. Here was Whitworth’s statement:

“As the CEO of a company founded in America’s heartland more than 165 years ago, I am responsible for ensuring every consumer feels proud of the beer we brew. We’re honored to be part of the fabric of this country. Anheuser-Busch employs more than 18,000 people and our independent distributors employ an additional 47,000 valued colleagues. We have thousands of partners, millions of fans and a proud history supporting our communities, military, first responders, sports fans and hard-working Americans everywhere. We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.  

My time serving this country taught me the importance of accountability and the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work and respect for one another. As CEO of Anheuser-Busch, I am focused on building and protecting our remarkable history and heritage. I care deeply about this country, this company, our brands and our partners. I spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others. Moving forward, I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation.” 

Incredible! He could have given that same statement any day of the year. It didn’t mention Mulvaney at all; he didn’t even state what he was responding to. First he tries to set up a King’s Pass: Budweiser is an old, established and successful company with lots of employees and partner (so it should get a break). Then he plays the Cognitive Dissonance game: Bud supports “communities, military, first responders, sports fans and hard-working Americans,’ so Bud must be one of the good companies.

Then the CEO lies: “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.” No, you just dived head-first into the trans activism battle, which is one of the most divisive issues in the culture right now. If you really didn’t know that before picking out a flaming trans celebrity for a Bud Light promotion, then you —as in the entire management team—are too incompetent to run a bake sale. But we all know you did know, and chose to do this anyway.

Hee resorts to shameless virtue signaling. “My time serving this country”—Oh! You’re a veteran! Thank-you for your service, sir! [ Squirrel! ] Then he extols American values, cleverly leaving out any that Mulvaney may be making her millions mocking. Next, he highlights what a great guy he is, so it’s wrong to be angry with him or his company. He cares! He’s patriot! He’s veritable Walt Whitworth, traveling this vast country to hear American singing!

Finally, he resorts to Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky ploy: I’m just going to keep working tirelessly at my job for the American people!

Wait, why are you making this statement? I lost the thread somewhere.

34 thoughts on “Incompetent Corporate Exec of the Year Nominee: Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth

  1. Okay, so this one’s in my professional wheelhouse (though not with clients anywhere near as big as ABInBev). Thoughts:

    1) Damn, but I wish I’d had the take-no-prisoners and the “fuck it – they’ll never know” attitude that created the ability to charge a client like this a million per year – or two – retainer for crap like this statement.

    2) Actually, I’m proud that I never did.

    3) That “statement” cost a metric shit-ton of money – starting with a promising junior-grade writer and ramping through a senior writer, an account manager, a VP of account management, the SVP of account management, and finally the COO – and possibly the CEO – of the agency, before it was released. All of them made a tweak, if only in punctuation. There were hours discussing each change, at each level.

    4) Each stage involved someone in charge who was being paid more than the earlier stage had delivered, on a logarithmic scale. Wouldn’t surprise me if there were extra charges due to requirements exceeding the boundaries of the retainer.

    5) What the fuck did he actually say? Nothing, actually.

    6) I wouldn’t wanna be the gal who approved this silly stunt. She’ll land on her feet, somewhere else. My bet is MSNBC or academia. But she’ll be shown the door at some point. And end up with a bigger paycheck at the end of the day.

    7) Is this a great country or what?

  2. Jack,

    “As Budwieser has lost billions in value since its Dylan Mulvaney fiasco, the company has remained silent.”

    Their stock dropped by 5% at close Wednesday, but has largely made up those losses by closing today. Moreover, as a stockholder myself, I can happily report their stock is WAY up over the past 12 months, and continues to look strong. Companies regularly “lose” billions in value over the course of a day’s trading, only to make up by close (or the next day) — which is why you can’t look at minute-by-minute ticker reports to have any idea where the stock is headed.

    None of this to suggest 5% is a pittance, but it’s also not indicative of their overall economic outlook nor are they “bleeding” as you suggest.

    • Their stock was down over the last week or so such that their market cap had been reduced by approximately 6 Billion. You could look it up.

  3. I thought the funniest thing about this guy reading the statement was they picked such a manly man to deliver it. A veteran, a former CIA officer, so handsome, who knows, he may even be gay!

  4. I wrote this last weekend about Bud Light…

    “I went to a bar/restaurant on Friday evening to pick up our weekly carry out food order and instead of ordering my usual #1 choice a heavy Warped Speed (a heavy Scotch Ale) and since I didn’t want a heavy beer I found myself ordering a Coors Light instead of my usual #2 choice which had been Bud Light. I’m really tired of the social justice woke crowd. Moral of the story; go woke, go broke. It’s just that simple for me.”

    I was back in the same bar/restaurant this evening picking up our weekly carry out food order and the Bud Light tap behind the bar was gone. Miller Light had replaced it.

    It doesn’t matter what the CEO of Anheuser-Busch says, he’s just pissing in the wind.

    Go woke, go broke.

      • Totally agree. What a stupid, self-inflicted wound. Anheuser-Busch played with fire and got burned and then blamed on a low-level employee. Jerks. I always hated Bud Light so I can’t and won’t boycott the product but, good grief.

        The arrogant, dismissive attitude Heinerscheid has toward her customers is astonishing. That she hasn’t been shown the door is mind boggling.


  5. Just curious: I just got a nice email telling me that the poet was Walt Whitman, not “Walt Whitworth”. I wondered if someone might not get my joke, because it was a joke, when I was composing the post. When I was just about to use Whitman, I decided that the Joke Gods had set me up for better, since the CEO’s real name was Whitworth. Given my penchant for typos, I was concerned that someone might think the Walt Whitworth reference was a mistake, but given my even greater penchant for plays on words and sophomoric jokes, I decided to hell with it: if the Joke Gods hand me an opportunity, I’d better take it, or they’ll regret the time they gave me the chance to emulate Bluto with the pencils up his nose in a staff meeting years ago.

    Fortunately, nobody there then said, “Pssst! Jack! You have two pencils in your nose!”

    Of course, I could have used “Brendan Whitman” to make the same point, or taken some other path, but I decided on the route I took. How many readers didn’t realize that it was intentional?

    • I got the “Whitworth”, but have absolutely no memory of the Ives or Brennan sitcoms you mentioned although I do recall Brennan’s prior one, “The Real McCoys”.

      • Well, this is because I watched way, way, way too much TV in the 60’s and 70’s, unlike Althouse, who didn’t watch enough. That’s why my brain is stuffed with memories of dozens of failed and obscure shows like “Harris Against the World,” “Captain Nice,” “The Debbie Reynolds Show,” “Apple’s Way,” “Harry’s Girls,””90 Bristol Court,” “Calvin and the Colonel,” “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,”and dozens more.

  6. Jack wrote:

    Then he could have gone back to his office, and fired Heinerscheid.

    Jack, as much as I agree with the sentiment behind that statement, AB would’ve been exactly wrong to do that. Here are the reasons why:

    1. Firing Heinerscheid would not mollify the boycott, it would produce another boycott from Leftists, damaging the company’s reputation with virtually every political demographic and crippling the brand. Alienating half your customers is extraordinarily bad business, but alienating the other half on top of that is actionable malpractice, even sabotage.

    2. Heinerscheid was hired knowing full well exactly what she was hired to do. Just like DEI deans on college campuses, if you hire someone to do something, they are going to do it. Yes, she is clearly not competent to do this job for a brand like Bud Light, but it seems obvious to me she was hired to try to reach people that the brand was not popular with.

    That she failed is a fact of life and inevitable given that she appears to be one of those people who’s politics infects every aspect of their life, but the responsibility for that failure lies with insufficient oversight (not to mention the decision to hire her to begin with, but that ship has sailed). People in marketing often come up with dumb ideas, but usually, the adults in the room keep them from destroying a valuable brand. The adults were apparently absent the day Heinerschied concocted this manic scheme. In the end, it is the adult oversight, namely the CEO, who should fall on their sword.

    3. It is never a good look to scapegoat, no matter how deserving the goat.

    The CEO of AB should resign, and that right soon. Heinerscheid should be promoted or transferred to a position of incompetence that she cannot possibly succeed at but that is far removed from the consumer-facing part of the company, quietly encouraged to find a job elsewhere or eventually let go after this fiasco quiets down. She is a bomb waiting to go off a second time, and AB needs to quietly defuse her.

    AB has a responsibility to its shareholders to minimize the damage from this mares-nest. Firing Heinerscheid will only make it worse, and even if AB deserves every bit of that, the shareholders deserve better. Hunker down, ride out the damage, for God’s sake don’t tweet again for at least a year (and maybe 18 months), apologize to the shareholders, hire a new CEO, and pray.

    Hope is not a plan, as they say, but right now, silence is golden and prayer a good idea.

  7. I read a couple of responses from AB about this debacle. In one the CEO did indeed issue a condescending statement but nowhere did he say he was firing the architect of this fiasco Heinerscheid, nor did he mention if he was terminating the contract with the gay/trans guy.
    The CEO knows the intense wrath from the queers and social media that would be forthcoming should he fire Heinerscheid or end the trans partnership so he concluded his only option was to grovel by issuing his nonsensical statement and weather the storm. His plan is to do nothing.

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