Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has told his government to investigate whether Bud Light’s parent company breached its duties to shareholders as a conservative backlash continues to rage over the beer brand’s deal with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, instructed Lamar Taylor, the interim executive director of the State Board of Administration, to immediately launch a review into “how AB InBev’s conduct has impacted and continues to impact the value of SBA’s AB InBev holdings.”
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“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 in a letter tweeted Friday.
“All options are on the table,” he added.
Shares of AB InBev are down more than 2% this year, while the broader market is up.
Sales of Bud Light have plummeted in the wake of conservative uproar and a boycott over the Mulvaney partnership. Last month, the beer lost its top spot in the U.S. beer market to Constellation Brands‘ Modelo Especial, which holds 8.7% of overall beer sales, while Bud Light holds 7%, according to data shared by consulting firm Bump Willams.
The firm also found Bud Light sales are down by about 25% from last year. Amid the boycott, shares for the company fell from $66 a share to $58. DeSantis said Florida had $53 million worth of stock in AB InBev.
“Anheuser-Busch InBev takes our responsibility to our shareholders, employees, distributors and customers seriously,” a spokesperson for the company told CNBC in a statement Friday afternoon.
“We are focused on driving long-term, sustainable growth for them by optimizing our business and providing consumers products to enjoy for any occasion,” the spokesperson said.
DeSantis suggested that the probe could prompt a lawsuit on behalf of the shareholders of Florida’s pension funds. “At the end of the day, there’s got to be penalties when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda at the expense of hardworking people,” he said in a Fox News interview Thursday night.
The governor accused the company of neglecting its stakeholders and pensioners by associating with “radical social ideologies.”
DeSantis oversees the state board as a trustee along with the state’s Republican attorney general and chief financial officer.
The move against Bud Light marks the latest instance of DeSantis jumping into a controversy over a hot-button social issue and flexing his political powers.
The governor has been locked in a bitter feud with Disney, one of his state’s top employers, for more than a year after the company criticized Florida’s controversial bill limiting classroom discussion of gender identity. Disney filed a federal lawsuit accusing DeSantis and his allies of political retaliation stemming from the clash over the classroom bill.
DeSantis, seen as former President Donald Trump’s top Republican primary rival, has kept up his attacks on the campaign trail against Disney and other entities he deems are pushing “woke” progressive political ideology.
“We must prudently manage the funds of Florida’s hardworking law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, and first responders in a manner that focuses on growing returns, not subsidizing an ideological agenda through woke virtue signaling,” he wrote in the letter to Taylor.
DeSantis is trailing Trump by double digits in most national polls of the GOP primary race. Less than two months after entering the race, the governor’s campaign is planning a reboot, NBC News reported Thursday.
Mulvaney has criticized Bud Light for not standing by her during the boycott. She said she was been harassed and intimidated as she became the face of the controversy.
“For months now I’ve been scared to leave my house, I’ve been ridiculed in public, I’ve been followed, and I have felt a loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Mulvaney said last month.