WASHINGTON Pabst Blue Ribbon, the no-frills beer that was lately embraced by thrifty young urbanites, has been acquired by a Connecticut tycoon known for reinvigorating food brands.
Investor C. Dean Metropoulos closed a deal to buy Pabst Brewing Co on Friday for an undisclosed sum from the California-based charitable organization that owned it, said Lou Giraudo, who was chairman of the board of Pabst prior to the sale.
Giraudo declined to discuss price other than to say that previously published figures of about $250 million were incorrect. Metropoulos was not immediately available for comment.
"It's been a wonderful experience. The executives at Miller have been extraordinarily helpful," said Giraudo.
Pabst Blue Ribbon is manufactured under contract by MillerCoors, the U.S. joint venture of Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP.N) and SABMiller (SAB.L).
Despite an anemic U.S. beer market that has been pressured by tough economic times and competition from wine and spirits companies, the low-cost Pabst Blue Ribbon has been rediscovered by thrifty, or broke, East Coast drinkers, who consider it exotic because of the beer's blue-collar, Midwest roots.
"It's cheap, and working in a downtown bar, there's not much that's cheap," said Heidi Schultz, who has tended bar at Chief Ike's Mambo Room since 1994. "Nobody has as much money as they used it, (and) it's not horrible."
PBR goes for $3 a can, while other beers cost as much as $6 a pint at Chief Ike's, she said.
Sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon in food, drug and other retail outlets rose 33 percent to about $172.7 million in the 52 weeks ending April 18, The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing data from market research firm SymphonyIRI Group.
Pabst was bought from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, which had been running it since shortly after the 1994 death of the widow of Pabst owner Paul Kalmanovitz.
The IRS told the charity that it could not own a for-profit business and set a deadline of 2010 for selling it.
The foundation listed its total assets as $62.3 million in its tax return for the year ending June 30, 2008.
Pabst Blue Ribbon was first brewed in 1848 by Jacob Best. As of 1872, it was the second-largest U.S. brewer, according to the Pabst website. From 1919 to 1933, the era of Prohibition in the United States, Pabst focused on making cheese, a business that was eventually bought by Kraft Foods Inc KFT.N, the website said.
The beers in Pabst's portfolio include: Schaefer, Carling's Black Label, Blatz, Colt 45 Malt Liquor, Schmidt, Special Export, Schlitz, Lone Star, Jacob Best, Ballantine, Falstaff, Rainier, Ice Man Malt Liquor, Silver Thunder Malt Liquor and Stroh's Beer.
Metropoulos, once the joint owner of brands such as Duncan Hines baking mixes, Vlasic pickles and Swanson frozen dinners, is head of C. Dean Metropoulos & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, editing by Matthew Lewis)