How do you tank $9 billion? The Stroh family story

Jul 29, 2014

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Stroh family was one of the richest in America. Now, their fortune is all but wiped out.

How did they lose $9 billion?

Forbes reporter Kerry Dolan spoke with family members to find out what led to the loss in her article: "How to Blow $9 Billion: The Fallen Stroh Family." 

Bernard Stroh emigrated from Germany to the United States with a beer recipe and started delivering beer with a wheelbarrow. By the 1980s, fourth-generation family member Peter Stroh was CEO of a major brewery.

Peter Stroh wanted to expand the company and bought the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee.

“It was like a minnow swallowing a whale,” Dolan said. “Stroh had one brewery in Detroit and Schlitz had six around the country.”

The business had a hard time competing with other companies such as Coors, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch.

“There were four big breweries in the brewery industry, but there really was only enough room in the market for three breweries,” Dolan said.

Stroh began lowering the price of the beer to compete. Then they tried to give the brand a makeover and raise the price – and sales tanked. Finally, they tried to buy another brewery, which put the company into debt.

Read Kerry Dolan’s piece on the Stroh family here.

*Listen to the full interview above.