An Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in Connecticut is suing the world’s largest beer manufacturer alleging that the maker of Bud Light conspired with a now former employee to damage the business and force a sale of the distributorship.
New Haven, Connecticut-based Dichello Distributors is suing Anheuser-Busch, claiming A-B “engaged in an ongoing conspiracy” with Sal DiBetta, a former employee who later worked as CEO of the wholesaler between 2013 and 2016, as well as “other unnamed parties,” to “undermine” Dichello and force president John Hall’s family to sell the business to A-B, according to a complaint filed on June 17 in the Connecticut Superior Court.
Dichello, which distributes A-B products in Fairfield, New Haven and Middlesex counties, alleges that the conspiracy led the company to incur “significant financial losses.” The lawsuit alleges breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, unfair trade practices, tortious interference, and fraud and theft. The company is seeking monetary and punitive damages; attorneys’ fees and costs; a finding that the equity agreement is invalid and unenforceable; and other relief.
In court filings, Dichello claims A-B forced a distribution agreement upon on the company in violation of Connecticut laws and the three-tier distribution system by imposing “unreasonable and excessive operation methods and methodologies” as well as trying to force the company to sell equity in the business to A-B’s approved manager, “whether the manager can afford to buy said interest at fair market value or not.”
Dichello also alleges A-B has tried to enforce an equity agreement on the wholesaler and threatened them “with consequences for non-compliance, including forced sale of the distributorship.”
Leonard Reizfeld, the attorney for Dichello, told Brewbound that the equity agreement violates Connecticut state law and the three-tier system of distribution.
“Their equity agreements seeks to force a wholesaler or distributor, to give or sell — but I mean, if necessary to give — a manager, a piece of the action,” he said. “A pretty big piece of the action, actually.
“My client refused,” he continued. “And since then, my client has been threatened by A-B. … They wanted somebody more complacent in there than them,” Reizfeld said.
A-B has not responded to a request for comment.
DiBetta worked for A-B for more than 30 years before joining Dichello in October 2013 and departing in 2016, according to his Linkedin profile.
That profile points to several accomplishments at Dichello — which is only identified as an “independent beer, wine and beverage distributor” — including reversing sales declines from -4.3% in 2013 to +2.8% in 2014, and receiving “gold status ‘Top Performer‘ award by Anheuser-Busch in 2014, selected #1 out of 89 wholesalers within [the] Northeast Region.”