A member of the founding family of Anheuser-Busch said any talks with Belgian brewer InBev should be based on shareholder value rather than the Busch family's legacy, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The comments signal a hardening of the split within the family, which could embolden InBev to make a bid for the St. Louis brewer, the newspaper said.
InBev is weighing a bid that could top $45 billion, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
"A possible merger is not a family issue," Adolphus Busch IV wrote in a release to the newspaper. It is not "a matter of family solidarity or legacy. It is strictly a matter of shareholder value.”
"It is no secret that the sluggish performance of the stock is a concern," he added.
Adolphus Busch, an uncle of Anheuser-Busch Chief Executive Officer August Busch IV, who controls less than 1 percent of Anheuser shares. He told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that some family members were open to the idea of the two brewers negotiating.
August Busch and his father, Anheuser director August Busch III, are opposed to a deal with InBev, people close to the company say, according to the Journal. Busch family members own a small percentage of Anheuser stock, so even if a majority of them were to oppose a deal, they could not block one.
Adolphus Busch also said the views of Warren Buffett would play a major role in whether a deal occurs.
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is the brewer's second-largest shareholder with a stake of below 5 percent.
Buffett "has a notable reputation for assisting in matters where family ownership is at stake," Adolphus Busch was quoted as saying. "Should Mr Buffett see this merger as a positive action for all shareholders involved, the likelihood of a deal will increase enormously."
A spokesman for Adolphus Busch said he had not spoken with Buffett and was not aware of his views, the newspaper said. Buffett declined to comment, as did Anheuser, the Journal said.