A-B InBev has welcomed the  decision

A-B InBev has welcomed the decision

Anheuser-Busch InBev has welcomed a ruling that will allow it to retain a stake in its largest Chicago distributor, following a long-running legal battle. 

Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) ruled yesterday (31 October) that the brewer can keep its 30% share in City Beverage. The case dates back to 2010 when City Beverage, one of the US's biggest beer wholesalers, went up for sale and A-B InBev attempted to take full ownership.

However, ILLCC ruled at the time the sale could not go through as the brewer is based outside the state.

A-B InBev filed a lawsuit challenging the decision and a federal judge referred the matter to the General Assembly to clarify the rules. New laws were then made that banned brewers - with exceptions for some micro-brewers - from self-distribution. 

As a result of the new rules, three Illinois drinks trade bodies argued that it was illegal for A-B InBev to hold even a minority stake in City Beverage. A-B InBev countered, however, that the changes did not affect its rights to hold a share in the distributor. 

A spokeperson told just-drinks that "self-distribution is not the same as holding a distributor licence, being a distributor or owning a minority stake in a distributor".

Gary Rutledge, North America Anheuser-Busch's VP & general counsel, said: “We are pleased the ILCC has upheld the law and its long-standing practice of allowing Anheuser-Busch to own an interest in a licensed distributor.

“A-B has made significant long-term business investments in Illinois based on the law, which is reflected in the decision.”