Trial Preview: The Queen of Beer vs. The King of Beers

KSDK - Jury selection begins Monday morning in a case pitting the so-called Queen of Beer against the King of Beers and her old bosses within the Busch family dynasty.

Leisa Zigman has covered the family and brewery for the past 20 years and she previews what could be a nationally transformative trial in regards to sex discrimination.

The majestic civil courts building in downtown St. Louis will serve as ground zero for the case of Francine Katz vs. Anheuser Busch-InBev.

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Jurors will decide if the brewery's highest ranking female executive was well compensated as vice president of Communications and Consumer Affairs, or the victim of what she calls "a frat party " work environment where women worked as hard as their male counterparts but were paid significantly less.

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Marcia McCormick is a St. Louis University law professor with expertise in labor and gender discrimination cases.

"Even though this is one of the best cases with best evidence of different treatment, where the main difference between this employee and the other employees was her sex, it is still going to be somewhat challenging to have a jury agree it was her sex that caused this discrimination especially if the jury identifies with the guys at the table rather than the woman at the table," she said.

Katz's lawsuit claims she not only made less than her male executive counterparts, but that from 2002 to 2007 she took her concerns to all of her bosses including August Busch III, Patrick Stokes, August Busch IV, and David Peacock.

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Sources tell Newschannel 5 all of those executives are on the witness list.

The suit claims John Jacob made $1.25 million in 2001, and when Katz took over his duties she was paid $500,000.

Katz alleges it wasn't until after the AB-In-Bev merger that she learned from the regulatory filings that her salary in 2007 was less than half of Jacob's salary and her stock options were substantially less.

A spokesperson for Anheuser Busch-InBev sent the following statement:

"Anheuser-Busch strongly believes Francine Katz's claims are false and unjustified and the facts and evidence presented at trial will prove that she was treated and compensated fairly.

"Ms. Katz was always paid generously during her 20 years of employment at Anheuser-Busch. Her compensation was determined through a fair, rigorous and gender-blind process, which involved outside independent compensation experts.

"Anheuser-Busch has always been and will always be committed to treating our employees fairly and consistent with the highest standards."

Jury selection begins Monday and the case is expected to last three weeks.

KSDK requested a camera in the courtroom on behalf of all local and national media. We knew the case would have great interest because of the Busch family but we also knew it had the potential to spark national discussion and debate on the topic of equal pay and sex discrimination. Judge Rex Burlison granted our request but with strict guidelines. Jurors are forbidden to be photographed.


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