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Editor's Viewpoint - Beer - Budejovicky Budvar: A Loud Voice for a Little Man

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It's been an interesting few days for me, having been to Czech for the first time, to visit Budejovicky Budvar. While with the company, in its hometown of Budejovice in the south of the country, I've had the opportunity to quiz several employees – and the group director himself – about a particular legal matter that has hung over the brewer's head for more than a century.

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Much as I felt like apologising for asking them about the trade mark dispute with Anheuser-Busch InBev over the term 'Budweiser' – how many times have they had to field that one from the likes of me? - it would have been a dereliction of duty had I not seized my chance.

What struck me was that, despite the small size of Budejovicky Budvar – it's the fourth largest brewer in Czech, for goodness sake – every time there is a development in the row in one jurisdiction or another, many business media outlets (and not only drinks trade media) give the news a healthy airing.

Here's a small player with a high profile, thanks not only to its outstanding beer (and it really is outstanding), but also – and possibly in the main - to its battle against the biggest boy on the block.

Another thing that I learnt while in Czech was how important the company believes the role of its ownership structure to be for its very existence. Budejovicky Budvar is state-owned – the group director's line manager is the Minister for Agriculture. Much as several previous Czech Governments have mooted a privatisation, many folk at the brewer believe that a step away from its nationalised status to any other master would only serve as the beginning of an ownership saga that ends with Anheuser-Busch InBev eventually snapping it up.

And then, several of Budejovicky's people believe, closing the company altogether.

All this is hypothetical at this point, of course. But ask yourself this: What administration would be comfortable with that on its CV?


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