Ale nous: Claude Bahoshy, Anheuser-Busch InBev
12 January 2009
It sounds like one of those ideal jobs in the law. Being the UK and Ireland legal director for Anheuser-Busch InBev gives you responsibility for the legal aspects of a £1bn business and all the free beer you can drink.
You would probably want to go easy on the latter to maintain a grip on the former, but as in-house jobs go it is quite a plum one.
Claude Bahoshy, the man in the hot seat at the moment, says: “We do get beer vouchers to spend on our products. And we’re quite lucky because we’ve got a fabulous brand portfolio, with beers such as Stella Artois, Beck’s, Budweiser, Leffe and Staropramen.”
After tearing himself away from the free Stella, Bahoshy soon discovered upon becoming the UK legal boss in 2007 that he would have to manage within the limitations placed on the size of his legal team.
Reporting to Bahoshy are two lawyers and one trainee, making the Anheuser-Busch InBev UK legal team the smallest in its peer group.
“We’ve got the smallest legal team of any of the top 10 Anheuser-Busch InBev markets, so we need to be very focused on what we turn our attention to,” explains Bahoshy. “Resources are very, very precious.”
That being said, Anheuser-Busch InBev will buck the redundancy trend and Bahoshy is looking to build up his team with a senior hire.
“We’re recruiting for a lawyer and I guess the plan would be to regain some stability in the UK legal function and bring in someone who could be my successor,” he says. “We always try to recruit people who are better than ourselves.”
The remit of the brewing giant’s legal team covers everything from the legal aspects of marketing new products to managing commercial contracts, employment work and even debt collection.
Bahoshy breaks up the workload into manageable annual projects, to which he assigns measurable targets. For example, in litigation, he might want to win a certain number of cases or, in corporate, sign off a big deal on time and on budget.
Careful management of the company’s external advisers, which include Halliwells and DLA Piper, is an essential part of the smooth running of the legal team. Bahoshy prefers the flexibility of a loose roster of firms rather than a strict panel.
“We’ve got a kind of an informal panel,” he explains. “We find we can make the money go further if we spend it with one person who knows the business rather than with three or four. We have hourly rates, but we can also work on a project and retainer bases.”
As manager of the UK legal team, Bahoshy’s daily existence has not been greatly affected by the $52bn (£35.71bn) merger between InBev and Anheuser-Busch – the maker of popular American beer Budweiser – in November. “I think that what the merger does is give us a significant presence in North America,” he says. “We used to be just in Canada but now we’re in the US, which will fit into our existing structure.”
The merger created one of the world’s top five biggest consumer products companies. Former InBev general counsel Sabine Chalmers became the company’s chief legal and compliance officer, while InBev colleague Benoit Loore scooped the top legal job for corporate matters.
Bahoshy sees the role of the company’s legal function as a support for InBev’s ultimate goal of revenue generation. “Like many other consumer goods businesses, I guess my concerns are about sales – ensuring our business can sell,” he says. “We talk to everyone. The thing about having a small team is that our remit is quite wide and we get to talk to a lot of people, from manufacturing to sales. The biggest challenge is to get the support and trust of those business people you talk to. You have to demonstrate an understanding of the business. At the end of the day, I’m a businessman too.”
Bahoshy expects that attitude to be reflected in the private practice lawyers who work with him. “It’s not about sitting in an ivory tower,” he argues. “The most successful law firms are the ones that understand that notion best. That’s the key. These are the people that will be able to support us.”
Bringing some nibbles to the meeting room to have with the Budweiser will also be appreciated.
Name: Claude Bahoshy
Organisation: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Position: Legal director, UK and Ireland
Industry: Beer/consumer goods
Reporting to: UK president Stuart MacFarlane and Western Europe general counsel Oleg Moubarakshin
vCompany turnover: £1bn-plus (UK and Ireland only), globally
Number of employees: 2,500 (UK and Ireland); 120,000 (globally)
Main external law firms: DLA Piper, Elliott Duffy Garrett, Halliwells,
Harper Macleod, LG, Machins
Claude Bahoshy’s CV
1991-95: Spanish & French, Oxford University
1996-98: College of Law, London
1998-2002: Simmon & Simmons (London and Hong Kong)
2002: Secondment to InBev
2002-06: Legal counsel, M&A and international market development, InBev (Leuven, Belgium)
2006: Legal director, Asia Pacific Zone (Shanghai)
2007-present: Legal director, UK & Ireland, InBev (now Anheuser-Busch InBev)