- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

GOLDEN, Colo. — The history of this bedroom community nestled against the Rocky Mountains’ foothills is inextricably tied to that of its biggest employer: beer behemoth Adolph Coors Co.

Coors was founded 132 years ago by a German immigrant who saw the beer-brewing potential in snow-fed Clear Creek west of Denver. Now, the company is on the verge of a $6 billion merger with Molson Inc. to form the world’s fifth-largest brewer.

Shareholders of Molson, Canada’s biggest brewer, yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favor of merging with Coors, the third-largest brewery in the United States. Coors shareholders are expected to approve the merger when they vote on Tuesday.

The combined Molson Coors Brewing Co., with headquarters both in Montreal and Denver, would own brands that include Coors Original, Coors Light, Keystone, Molson Canadian and Carling.

No dramatic changes are expected in Golden, but the reactions of some residents show just how much this former mining town identifies with a company that came into existence in 1873, three years before Colorado became a state.

Dave Shuey said he isn’t worried about layoffs, lost business or even a new look at the venerable brewery down the street from his Foss General Store. But he’s concerned about the merger’s impact on Pete Coors, the brewery’s chairman and telegenic pitchman, who is like family to people like Mr. Shuey, a 35-year Golden resident.

“Pete has been a personal friend for 30 years,” Mr. Shuey said from his tiny office next to the store’s beer cooler. “My concern is with him, whether he’s going to stay.”

Tucked below South Table Mountain, the complex of concrete buildings in Golden employs about 4,500 people. It draws more than 250,000 visitors annually, many of whom also stop in the town’s restaurants and shops.

The brewery is a critical part of the area’s economy, paying $346 million in wages and benefits and about $15.1 million in taxes annually. In 2002, Coors bought $356 million in products and services from Colorado companies, including $16 million from Golden-based vendors.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey’s earthquake center also are here now, but Coors is easily the most identifiable entity and perhaps the state’s most recognizable business.

The brewery has a long resume here, not all of it rosy. There have been bitter labor disputes, toxic spills that killed tens of thousands of fish, and controversial politics involving the Coors family.

Descendants of founder Adolph Coors still run the company, still pick up their own groceries in Golden’s shops and still give generously here and elsewhere. The late Joseph Coors helped found the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Pete Coors was the Republican nominee for Senate last year. He lost to Democrat Ken Salazar.

Coors family members declined an interview request, citing the upcoming shareholder votes. Company spokeswoman Laura Sankey said few changes are expected if the merger goes through.

Some residents can’t help but feel disappointed at the prospect of a company whose identity is so closely associated with Colorado surrendering some control to a Canadian business.

“I’d rather see it stay American, but I don’t think it affects me or anyone else personally,” said Derek Kim, who owns a liquor store across the street from the brewery. “What’s the big deal as long as the jobs stay here?”

Technically, Coors hasn’t been a Colorado company for more than a year, since shareholders in October 2003 approved moving the company’s place of incorporation to Delaware. It has had agreements with Molson for several years for each company to sell the other’s products in their respective countries.

University of Colorado history lecturer Tom Thomas said he was a bit surprised when he asked his students about Coors and Golden recently.

“They say that cachet and the power of that Colorado connection is still really important for Coors,” Mr. Thomas said. “It was almost mythical in a way.”

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