Bud Light maker Anheuser-Busch to lay off hundreds of corporate staff

An employee adjusts bottles of Bud Light beer at an Anheuser-Busch InBev facility in Virginia, Aug. 8, 2018.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev announced it will lay off hundreds of corporate employees as sales of its flagship lager Bud Light falter.

In a statement to CNBC on Thursday, a company spokesperson said the job cuts affect less than 2% of U.S. employees. Anheuser-Busch has about 18,000 employees nationwide. The layoffs will include about 350 of those people.

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The company said it will cut positions across every corporate function. Anheuser-Busch added the changes will “simplify and reduce layers within its organization.”

The layoffs will not affect employees such as brewery and warehouse staff, drivers and field salespeople, among others, the company added.

“While we never take these decisions lightly, we want to ensure that our organization continues to be set for future long-term success,” Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth said in a statement. “These corporate structure changes will enable our teams to focus on what we do best — brewing great beer for everyone and earning our place in the moments that matter.”

Bud Light sales have sagged following a conservative boycott over its March Madness partnership with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The company faced backlash from other consumers, and Mulvaney herself, over its decision not to defend the collaboration.

Amid the uproar, shares of Anheuser-Busch have dipped more than 2% this year, versus the S&P 500’s nearly 20% gain.

In May, Bud Light lost its top spot in the U.S. beer market to Constellation Brands‘ Modelo. The brand held 8.7% of overall beer sales for the four weeks ending July 1, according to data shared by consulting firm Bump Williams. Bud Light had 7% market share during that same period, the data found.

The firm also found Bud Light sales dropped 28% for the week ending June 24 when compared with the same period last year.

Anheuser-Busch is also the target of a government investigation led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Last week, DeSantis said he instructed the State Board of Administration to immediately launch a review into whether Bud Light’s parent company breached its shareholder duties over its partnership with Mulvaney.

DeSantis suggested the probe could lead to a lawsuit on behalf of the shareholders of Florida’s pension funds. Florida has $53 million worth of stock in Anheuser-Busch.

“Anheuser-Busch InBev takes our responsibility to our shareholders, employees, distributors and customers seriously,” a spokesperson for the company told CNBC in a statement last week.

“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 added.

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.