- Associated Press - Saturday, November 13, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Anheuser-Busch sued Major League Baseball on Friday in a dispute over the brewer’s decades-long sponsorship.

The maker of Budweiser contends MLB is improperly trying to back out of an April agreement to extend the company’s exclusive sponsorship deal.

The St. Louis-based company said it had a signed renewal agreement in hand for weeks when baseball’s licensing entity abruptly asked for more money and refused to sign a formal contract.

Anheuser-Busch said an MLB official demanded an “exponentially higher” fee because there had been a “change in marketplace dynamics.”

The company asked a federal judge to declare the April agreement binding and block MLB from negotiating with any other brewer.

MLB would not comment on the specifics of the dispute but said in a statement it had a “different view of what has been reported.”

Anheuser-Busch has been an MLB sponsor for more than 30 years and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its relationship with the sport.

It said the advertising and promotional rights associated with the sponsorship deal were “invaluable,” and enabled the company to reach millions of customers daily.

It also reminded the court, “An enormous volume of beer is sold in the ballparks during the baseball season.”

In the lawsuit, Anheuser-Busch blamed the dispute on MLB’s reaction to a May announcement that the company also was becoming the official beer sponsor of the NFL.

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