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Anheuser-Busch Owes $52 Million in SeaWorld Worker Pension Suit

Sept. 30, 2019, 1:46 PM

Anheuser-Busch Cos. must pay nearly $52 million to resolve a lawsuit by about 800 former SeaWorld theme park workers who said they lost pension benefits when their company was sold off, a federal judge in Missouri ruled.

The final judgment calculating the beermaker’s liability comes two years after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that the SeaWorld workers were entitled to larger pensions under a plan provision governing changes in corporate control following Anheuser-Busch’s merger with InBev.

The $52 million owed by Anheuser-Busch includes mostly increased pension payments and interest. Judge Stephen M. Limbaugh Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri also ordered the beermaker to pay certain retirees higher monthly pension payments going forward, which will cost the beermaker more than $71,000 per month, Limbaugh said Sept. 27.

Limbaugh previously ruled that Anheuser-Busch’s sell-off of Busch Entertainment Corp., which operated the SeaWorld park, meant the SeaWorld workers were “involuntarily terminated” and thus likely entitled to higher benefits. Limbaugh initially ordered Anheuser-Busch to recalculate these benefits, but the Eighth Circuit instructed Limbaugh to do the calculation himself.

The SeaWorld workers are represented by Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie LLP, Tucker Ellis LLP, Jacobson Press PC, and Stone & Leyton. Anheuser-Busch is represented by Dowd Bennett LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

The case is Knowlton v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., LLC, E.D. Mo., No. 4:13-cv-00210-SNLJ, 9/27/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com