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Coors HQ headed to Chicago

David Milstead
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Ken Papaleo/Rocky Mountain NewsCoors Brewery in Golden.
ALL |

GOLDEN, Colorado ” The new MillerCoors joint venture has chosen Chicago, not Colorado or Milwaukee, as its new headquarters.

“It’s the bias for a neutral city that keys the decision,” MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely said today. “It’s really important to form a new culture. Any presumption anyone came out on top, or somebody won or lost, would really be reinforced if we chose one of the (existing) cities.”

MillerCoors’ intentions to pick a neutral headquarters city like Chicago were first reported by the Rocky in February.

Kiely, who joined the joint venture from Molson Coors, said 150 to 175 positions in each of Golden and Milwaukee will be transferred to Chicago. A specific headquarters site hasn’t been chosen, but it will be in downtown Chicago, he said.

The company hopes to have the headquarters open in summer or fall 2009.

Denver- and Montreal-based Molson Coors formed the joint venture July 1 with the English brewer SABMiller.

Each international brewer contributed its American operations, Coors Brewing and Miller Brewing, to the new $6.6 billion (revenue) company. SABMiller owns 58 percent of the venture, with Molson Coors owning 42 percent.

Kiely said the new venture will invest $100 million in the Golden brewery and $50 million in Milwaukee, as it prepares to brew legacy Miller and Coors brands in each location. The company will also have a “western division” and an “eastern division” based in Golden and Milwaukee, respectively.

“Our commitment to Golden and Milwaukee is much bigger that it ever will be to Chicago,” Kiely said. “It’s an emotional decision for both communities, but our commitment goes forward, and it’ll be obvious over time.”

Kiely said the state of Illinois and city of Chicago put together an incentive package “over the last 36 hours,” but he wasn’t able to say how much it was.

Tom Clark, director of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., said his group submitted a proposal to MillerCoors last week but “did not hold out much hope.” Colorado did not formally offer incentives because it never entered active negotiations with MillerCoors.

“We knew we were swimming against the current from the beginning,” Clark said. “We were in regular contact, and they were always cordial, always friendly, but every conversation ended with ‘a neutral site is part of our decision.'”

Kiely said he’s talked frequently to the mayors and governors of Denver, Milwaukee, Colorado and Wisconsin.

“Once we realized a new location was a possibility, we certainly entertained pitches from both cities and states,” Kiely said. “But we did not ask them to present economic incentive packages, because that would have been disingenuous.”


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