Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev's shares have been battered this year ever since the beleaguered brand's partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, but billionaire Bill Gates' foundation trust appears to see the beer's slump as an opportunity to buy the dip.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the funds of the foundation the Microsoft co-founder still runs with his ex-wife, purchased 1.7 million shares of Anheuser-Busch last quarter, according to a regulatory filing. The transaction is valued at $95 million.
A detailed view of a Bud Light logo during a regular season game between the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics on July 2, 2023, at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The backlash against Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch began in early April, not long after the company created and sent custom beer cans to Mulvaney to mark "365 days of girlhood."
That move and comments from Bud Light's marketing vice president at the time prompted calls for a boycott from some conservatives, and the company also drew the ire of LGBTQ activists for not doing more to defend its decision.
Sales took a clear hit. Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a steep drop in profits as a result of the boycott, with U.S. revenue dropping 10.5% in the second quarter, while earnings before taxes, interest and depreciation fell 28.2%. The company has laid off hundreds of workers amid the fallout.
Dylan Mulvaney attends the 65th GRAMMY Awards on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Last month, Bud Light lost its 22-year reign as the best-selling beer in the U.S. on an annual basis, when Mexican lager Modelo Especial became the top-selling beer for 2023 after beating Bud Light in sales for months.
Despite the controversy surrounding the promotion with Mulvaney, Anheuser-Busch's leadership sees an opportunity for a comeback.
Bud Light's parent company reported that a survey of some 170,000 U.S. consumers during the second quarter found a majority of Americans still have a favorable view of the brand, and 80% are either favorable or neutral.
Bud Light has sought to recoup its top spot by leaning into football, country music and other quintessential American favorites in its new advertising campaigns.
FOX Business' Anders Hagstrom and Joe Toppe contributed to this report.