Court Battle With Pabst and MillerCoors Brewing

     MILWAUKEE (CN) — Saying MillerCoors has it over a barrel, Pabst Brewing wants a court to safeguard the future economic production of cheap-beer favorite PBR, newly public records show.
     Under seal for over a month in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, the complaint made public Tuesday alleges that Blue Ribbon’s 2014 acquisition of Pabst hinged on an assurance that MillerCoors would continue brewing PBRs “on commercially reasonable terms” for the remainder of the 20-year contract and for the next two five-year extensions.
     While negotiating terms that would go into effect in 2020, however, Pabst says Miller publicly announced plans to close the North Carolina brewery where most of Pabst’s products are made.
     Miller allegedly gave Pabst no advance notice of the announcement, and then claimed it would no longer have the capacity to produce Pabst beer.
     Rather than lease the facility to Pabst, allowing it to continue producing its products, Miller has offered to sell the facility “at an astronomical, non-market price,” the complaint states.
     Pabst says the contract will end unless Pabst agrees to a “commercially devastating, near-triple price increase for each barrel” of beer.
     A planned 10 percent price increase in 2021 went out the window when Miller’s leadership changed, and was replaced by a 146 percent increase, Pabst says.
     “MillerCoors’ so-called proposal came after nearly a year of promises and assurances that it would have sufficient capacity and was prepared to extend the agreement on commercially reasonable terms,” the complaint states.
     In trying to keep their March 30 filing against MillerCoors under seal, Pabst Brewing and its parent company, Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings, said their pleadings contained confidential contract information.
     Judge David Borowski denied the request for seal Tuesday and released the documents, citing failure to prosecute and failure to follow court orders.
     Though Borowski issue the latest order, Miller previously had the case transferred to Judge Timothy Dugan.
     In the month that the case has been confidential, the court struggled to have Pabst schedule a hearing on its request for a seal.
     The court refused to make the complaint public before Tuesday, despite having given a copy Friday to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
     Pabst attorney Ross Anderson of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek said he had had discussion with a member of defense counsel, Steven Berryman of Quarles & Brady, but elected to let the issue of a seal die rather than pursue it in court.
     Anderson said he does not plan to challenge the court’s decision, which was made without a response on the matter by defense.
     Though contract disputes are rarely filed under seal, Anderson said he would not categorize the attempt as a long shot.
     James Eric Goldschmidt, listed online as Miller’s attorney, directed all requests for comment to the company.

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