The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 5, 2014

Milwaukee group wants to buy Pabst

(Continued)

The plan is being floated at a time when some Great Lakes cities are trying to develop a “blue economy” by attracting industries that rely on water. As growing water scarcity casts a shadow over the economy in warmer states, many northern communities want to use their abundant freshwater to attract businesses, including breweries.

Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for Milwaukee’s development department, said city officials know little about the effort so far but look forward to discussing any plan with the organizers.

Paul Gatza, director of the Colorado-based Brewers Association trade group, said he’s seen reports the company could go for $700 million to $1 billion. He said Metropoulos’ business is acquisitions, not brewing, which might explain the interest in selling.

Raising that sort of money from Milwaukee’s 600,000 residents would be tough, but it might be more feasible if a private-equity group stepped in, Gatza said.

Beer is personal to beer drinkers, and Gatza has seen social media backlash when beer drinkers grow unhappy with other companies’ changes, he said.

“There might be some PR value in selling it to a group of Milwaukee fans,” he said.

The Pabst family sold their controlling interest in the company in 1933, and the last family member, August Pabst. Jr., retired from the board of directors in 1983.

One of the city’s tourist attractions is the Pabst Mansion, a masterpiece of Gilded Age architecture that was once home to Frederick Pabst. And one of Milwaukee’s main music venues is the Pabst Theater, which was run for many years by the family.

Jim Haertel owns Pabst’s old administrative building and bar in the company’s former brewery complex. He said he would buy into Pabst if given the opportunity and even scrap his plans to put a bed and breakfast in the building with beer taps in the rooms.

Renting offices would make less money than a bed and breakfast. But, he said, “it just seems like the right thing to do.”

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