Former Anheuser-Busch VP loses discrimination suit

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Anheuser-Busch did not discriminate against a former executive by paying her significantly less than a male predecessor, a jury in St. Louis decided Friday.

The jury of seven women and five men sided with the beer-maker, a onetime family business now owned by Belgium-based brewer InBev.

Counting bonuses and stock options, Francine Katz earned about $1 million annually after her 2002 promotion to vice president of communications and consumer affairs and appointment to the company’s influential strategy committee.

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John H. Jacob

But Katz’s base salary was half that of John Jacob, a former National Urban League president and Anheuser-Busch board member. The company argued that Katz’s salary, benefits and bonuses compared favorably to those in similar positions at other large U.S. corporations and that Jacob had considerably more responsibilities, including an informal role as trusted adviser to former CEO August Busch III.

In a 20-year career in which she rose from a young corporate lawyer to a role as key strategist and the beer-maker’s top female executive, Katz, now 56, became the face of her hometown employer, defending the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light from regulators and anti-alcohol campaigns.

“She did a very good job,” former CEO August Busch IV acknowledged in testimony during the three-week trial. His father, August Busch III, another former CEO, also testified.

Katz sued Anheuser-Busch in 2009, after she left the brewer following its sale to InBev. Her attorney said she was entitled to at least $9.4 million for her work from 2002 to 2008, plus punitive damages. In 2008, her final year with the company, Katz reported more than $14 million in income on her federal tax returns, including stock options she cashed in.

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