Anheuser-Busch Puts Cardinals Baseball Team, Eagles Snacks Up for Sale
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. put its Cardinals baseball team and Eagles Snacks food business up for sale on Wednesday so it can focus on its core businesses of beer, theme parks and aluminum cans.
Anheuser-Busch decided to sell the major league Cardinals because the ballclub was no longer a ``compatible fit″ with the company, spokesman John Jacob said.
``We concluded it was in the best interest of everyone _ including the Cardinals and the fans _ to seek a new owner,″ brewery chairman and president August A. Busch III said in a statement.
Jacob said the company posted record third-quarter sales and earnings, but he said the challenge of achieving record reults each quarter ``is becoming increasingly difficult.″
In addition to selling the Cardinals and the Eagle Snacks division, the brewery will close its Tampa, Fla., brewery within two months, and reduce wholesale beer inventories by about a third.
Anheuser-Busch also plans to sell Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play their home games, and its parking garages.
Combined with the previously announced spin-off of the Campbell Taggart food products company, the actions are expected to generate savings of more than $200 million.
Jacob said the company hoped to sell the Cardinals by June. Every effort will be made to sell the team to a local buyer, or at least to owners who would keep it in St. Louis, Jacob said.
``St. Louis fans are the best in baseball. They have been generous in support of the Cardinals and indeed in Anheuser-Busch,″ he said. ``It is our objective that they continue to be able to enjoy Cardinals baseball well into the future.″
The announcement caught many by surprise.
Analyst Lawrence Adelman of Dean Witter Reynolds said before the announcement said that both the Cardinals and Eagle Snacks division ``are a small drain on their business, but so small relative to the total. And I think they get a lot of side benefits _ advertising, a straight involvement in sports.″
Few teams in professional sports are as closely associated with their owner as the Cardinals. The brewery’s Clydesdales parade around the stadium at playoff and World Series games; fans clap along to the old Budweiser jingle _ ``Here Comes the King″ _ during the seventh inning stretch; large signs at Busch Stadium promote Budweiser, Michelob and other Anheuser-Busch products.
``I hate to see them lose the Cardinals,″ Anheuser-Busch worker Jim Ahlemeyer said. ``It just seems like St. Louis is a Budweiser town.″
Anheuser-Busch bought the Cardinals in February 1953 from Fred Saigh for 2.5 million and assumed $1.25 million in Cardinals’ debt. Financial World magazine estimates the value of the team at $110 million
Under the brewery’s ownership, the Cardinals have won three World Series titles and six National League pennants.
But with rising player salaries and smaller crowds, the Cardinals are no longer profitable. Jacob said the team lost $12 million this past season, in which attendance dropped to 1.7 million from more than 3 million as recently as 1989.
The Eagles Snacks division was created in 1982 and makes salted snacks like pretzels and nuts. It was expected to lose $25 million in 1995.