Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gender discrimination by beer giant alleged

Ex-exec suing St. Louis brewer

  • Print

ST. LOUIS -- From male-only corporate jets to guys' golf outings and hunting trips, Francine Katz says her time in the Anheuser-Busch executive suite was rife with exclusion and outright discrimination. But it wasn't until the King of Beers' 2008 sale to Belgian brewer InBev that she says she realized the boys'-club atmosphere was costing her millions.

In a 20-year career that saw her rise from a young corporate lawyer to a vice-president, key strategist and the beer maker's top female executive, Katz became the face of her hometown employer, defending the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light from overzealous regulators and anti-alcohol crusaders.

Now she's accusing Anheuser-Busch of sex discrimination, arguing in a lawsuit that reached trial last week that top male executives -- including former CEOs August Busch III and his son, August Busch IV -- purposely paid her less because she's a woman. Six years after the sale of AB to InBev, the trial fascinates a company town, threatening to heap unwanted publicity on a family dynasty that's had its share.

"This was a company run by men who were unaccustomed with working with women at high levels," Katz's attorney, Mary Anne Sedey, told the jury of seven women and five men in opening arguments of a trial expected to last several weeks.

In March, the White House Council on Economic Advisers issued a report noting that on average, full-time working women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Critics of the report said that figure oversimplifies the situation, but even they concede women with advanced degrees in fields such as medicine and law face a persistent wage gap as their careers advance.

Counting bonuses and stock options, Katz earned more than $1 million annually after her 2002 promotion to vice-president of communications and consumer affairs and elevation to the company's influential strategy committee. Her predecessor, former National Urban League president John Jacob, earned four times that amount in his final year, Katz's lawyer said. Katz said she didn't realize the pay gap until reviewing tax filings connected to the sale to InBev.

Katz said August Busch III called her "ungrateful" after she raised complaints about the disparity.

"Make no mistake about it -- Francine Katz earned a lot of money at Anheuser-Busch," Sedey said. "But like so many women in this country, Francine Katz was significantly underpaid."

Her attorney said Katz deserves at least $9.4 million she was entitled to from 2002 to 2008, plus punitive damages. In 2008, her final year with the company, Katz reported more than $14 million in income on her federal tax returns, an amount that includes stock options she cashed in.

Lawyers for Anheuser-Busch counter that Katz's salary, benefits and bonuses compared favourably to those in similar positions at Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble and other large U.S. corporations. They suggested her primary duty involved public relations, while Jacob had far more substantive responsibilities, including as August Busch III's trusted confidant.

"Francine Katz was paid based on her job, not her gender," said Anheuser-Busch attorney Jim Bennett. "There was a fair process used, a rigorous process used."

On Friday, August Busch III took the stand, verbally sparring with a member of Katz's legal team as he recounted the company's methods for paying top executives. His son and namesake, who led the company for two years before its sale, is also expected to testify. Their presence is sure to draw attention in St. Louis, where numerous buildings, including the St. Louis Cardinals' stadium, bear the family name.

The elder Busch, 76, succeeded his father as CEO in 1975 at 38 in a coup initially resisted by August "Gussie" Busch Jr. August Busch III remained in charge for nearly three decades before his 2002 retirement and stayed on as chairman of its board of directors through 2006. Under his watch, the family business founded by German immigrants in 1876 became the country's largest brewer.

Colleagues and underlings said Busch ruled with a hair-trigger temper. Katz testified that Jacob told her Busch avoided discussing a contentious environmental issue with her because he was afraid Katz would cry.

Katz testified Busch and another company executive forced her to fly on a separate corporate plane when the group travelled to Ohio for meetings with government officials. On other occasions, she was excluded from corporate golf tournaments and other functions, she said.

"I felt invisible," Katz said.

August Busch IV, 49, was better known for his legal missteps and love of nightlife before his ascendancy to the boardroom.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2014 B4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The Whiteboard - Jets' 5-on-3 penalty kill

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy
  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How will you be spending the holiday season? (select all that apply)

View Results

Ads by Google