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Milwaukee company renews Coors interest.

Milwaukee company renews Coors interest

The president of a Milwaukee company says his company is ready to renew its pitch to buy the financially troubled Stroh Brewery Co. and bring it to Milwaukee, since a bid from Coors Brewing Co. has expired.

Sheldon B. Lubar, president of Lubar & Co., had been one of the top suitors of the Detroit brewer all along. Lubar lost out in the final hours, largely because the Stroh family wanted to keep their brewery in the hands of a brewing family like Coors, which is based in Golden, CO.

Lubar, a prominent venture capitalist, said he and a group of investors had put together a competitive bid for Stroh, which had bought Milwaukee's Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. in 1982, but lost because of the family connection.

"I think we set the price, and Coors met it," Lubar said. "But the Stroh and Coors families knew each other."

To bring Stroh to Milwaukee as Lubar intended would return Old Milwaukee, Stroh's top-selling brand, to the city where it started. But only the Stroh headquarters initially would be in Milwaukee; a brewery would have to be found.

Lubar's purchase of Stroh also could return Russell Cleary, one of Wisconsin's most famous brewers, to the helm of a large brewery, but that prospect would remain a long shot.

Cleary, of La Crosse, guided the G. Heileman Brewing Co. to fourth place among the nation's brewers before leaving earlier this year, a little more than a year after Heileman was sold to Australian financier Alan Bond.

"He's an outstanding person," Lubar said, but Cleary has a contract with Heileman agreeing not to compete.

The letter of intent on the Coors-Stroh deal, in which Coors agreed to pay $425 million for almost all of Stroh, expired Friday with no sale, the companies said.

Coors and Stroh could not reach a final agreement, and expiration of the letter of intent lets Stroh talk with other potential buyers, said Chris Sortwell, Stroh vice president for corporate planning and development.

Sortwell said the companies agreed to refrain from discussing details, such as whether the price or the prospect of a Justice Department review of the Coors-Stroh combination were stumbling blocks.

S&P Co., the parent of Pabst Brewing Co. here, filed a lawsuit in October, claiming that the proposed sale would drive smaller brewers such as Pabst and G. Heileman out of business.

Coors President Peter Coors cited unresolved issues in the transaction as originally contemplated and concern with antitrust issues.

Preparations for possible independent operation included recent employment cuts and sales of Stroh assets, Sortwell said.

Stroh has sought potential partners since February and announced Aug. 31 that it was laying off 300 of its 1,500 white-collar employes nationwide because there had been no suitable offers.

After S&P filed its lawsuit, seven members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation asked the U.S. Justice Department in November to prohibit the Coors-Stroh transaction as anti-competitive. The department's antitrust division is reviewing the deal.
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Title Annotation:Lubar & Co. wants to buy Stroh Brewery
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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