King of Beers

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Cox

Carlos Brito's bottomless thirst.

Nobody is focused on quenching thirst like Carlos Brito. As the chief executive of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Brazilian-born Brito is responsible for every other beer-be it a Bud Light, Beck's, Stella, or Leffe-guzzled in this country. Two weeks ago, Brito added a complement of Mexican brands, including Corona and Negra Modelo, to his company's coolers. And yet somehow, despite already running the world's biggest brewer by a wide margin, Brito's ambitions as a takeover artist seem insatiable.

"You are only going to be the size of your dream," Brito, 52, told students four years ago at Stanford Business School, where he received his MBA. "To dream big or dream small takes the same amount of energy, so why not stretch a little bit?" The question is how much bigger Brito can make the world's largest brewer without overstretching. Since there aren't many independent beer companies of size left to buy, for his next trick Brito may have to go really big by acquiring SABMiller, or even making a run for the company that once offered to train him in leadership skills: PepsiCo.

If all of that sounds far-fetched, consider Brito's accomplishments. Since merging Latin America's AmBev with Belgium's Interbrew in 2004 and then acquiring Anheuser-Busch and a few other brewers along the way, Brito's business has grown from $11 billion in sales to about $47 billion today. Operating profit has surged more than fivefold to some $18 billion. …