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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Warns Anheuser-Busch Over Bud Light Ad Featuring Dylan Mulvaney

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is hinting at legal action against Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, for the beer brand’s promotion earlier this year with TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney.

Bud Light’s March Madness promotion with Mulvaney, a transgender actress and activist, sparked an uproar among some conservatives, including singers Kid Rock and Travis Tritt, who called for a boycott of the popular beer. An ongoing sales slump for Bud Light has been attributed to backlash from both conservatives and the LGBTPQ community over the marketing campaign.

In an interview Thursday with Fox News, DeSantis said that Florida’s pension fund contained over $50 million worth of Anheuser-Busch shares. Bud Light’s decision to team with Mulvaney was followed by a sales slump, and as a result the state’s pension fund has suffered collateral damage, according to the 2024 presidential candidate. 

“When you start pursuing a political agenda at the expense of your shareholders, that’s not just impacting very wealthy people, it impacts hardworking people who were firefighters, police officers and teachers,” DeSantis told Fox News.

“And it could be something that leads to a derivative lawsuit filed on behalf of the shareholders of the Florida pension fund,” he added. “Because, at the end of the day, there’s got to be penalties for when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda at the expense of hardworking people.”

DeSantis didn’t say how much the pension fund has lost from its Anheuser-Busch investments. Derivative lawsuits are filed by shareholders on behalf of a company against a corporation’s directors or officers alleging breach of their fiduciary duties.

“Radical social ideologies”

The governor on Thursday also sent a letter to Florida’s State Board of Administration (SBA), which manages its pension fund, asking staff “to review how AB InBev’s conduct has impacted and continues to impact the value of SBA’s AB InBev holdings.” 

Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney: Why the extreme backlash from a single social media post?

In the letter, DeSantis said AB InBev has struggled recently because the company decided “to associate its Bud Light brand with radical social ideologies.”

“It appears to me that AB InBev may have breached legal duties owed to its shareholders and that a shareholder action may be both appropriate and necessary,” DeSantis wrote. 

When reached for comment by CBS MoneyWatch, a spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch said, Anheuser-Busch InBev takes our responsibility to our shareholders, employees, distributors and customers seriously. We are focused on driving long-term, sustainable growth for them by optimizing our business and providing consumers products to enjoy for any occasion.”

Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Anheuser-Busch, told CBS Mornings last month that the company is sending financial assistance to distributors and wholesalers affected by the slump in Bud Light sales since Mulvaney’s social media video went viral. Whitworth added that ABI plans to triple its investment in Bud Light this year as the company launches its upcoming summer campaign and prepares for the NFL season. 

Bud Light sales dropped 28% for the week ending June 24, compared with the same period last year, according to beverage industry research firm Bump Williams Consulting. That amounts to a decline in revenue of roughly $26 million for Anheuser-Busch, according to data from consumer behavior data analytics firm Circana.

AB InBev’s stock price has fallen 14% since the Mulvaney promotion in late March, with the company losing $16 billion in market value over period. Florida’s pension fund contained more than 682,000 shares of AB InBev at the end of March, valued at the time at nearly $46 million, CNN reported. 

Budweiser releases new ad amid backlash over partnership with Dylan Mulvaney

DeSantis is also at the center of an ongoing dispute with the Walt Disney Co. about how much authority the entertainment giant has over land near its theme parks in Orlando, Fla.

DeSantis has been on the campaign trail in recent weeks, hoping to position himself as the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. He visited South Carolina earlier this week and landed in Utah on Friday in a push to re-energize his campaign, which has lost momentum. 

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