St. Louis Zoo drops out of running for Grant's Farm
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Zoo Association said Friday it is dropping the offer to buy Grant's Farm in south St. Louis County, citing a survey that showed most people prefer to keep the popular attraction in the family that founded Anheuser-Busch.
The zoo association also cited concerns about litigation, since one of August Busch's six children, William K. "Billy" Busch, is fighting to keep the property.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, formed when InBev purchased the brewery in 2008, leases Grant's Farm from the Busch family. The zoo association said it was approached in 2013 by Busch family members about buying Grant's Farm for about $30 million. Anheuser-Busch InBev would have donated most of the purchase money.
Zoo leaders wanted to use it for a third campus and breeding site for endangered animals.
Grant's Farm has drawn 25 million guests since it opened in 1954. It includes some 900 animals -- ranging from exotic birds to camels, kangaroos and elephants -- and is home to some of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales. It is named for Civil War general and former president Ulysses S. Grant, who originally worked a portion of the land.
Four of August Busch's six children wanted to sell to the zoo. Billy Busch, who also is founder of Kraftig beer, wants to keep the property in the family, and has the support of one brother. A court hearing is scheduled for March 28.
"We appreciate the Zoo's position in this matter, and are confident we will be able to collaborate in the future to help Grant's Farm and our world-class St. Louis Zoo to continue serving everyone in the greater St. Louis region and beyond," Billy Busch said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Busch announced details of his plan to revitalize Grant's Farm. The plan included adding a new pavilion, exhibits and life-sized bronze statues of his parents, as well as opening it year-round. His plan also would move his fast-growing beer company from the St. Louis suburb of Brentwood.
The zoo association's president, Matthew W. Geekie, said the association conducted a survey to see how people felt about whether the zoo should buy Grant's Farm.
"The response was loud and clear: the people of our region love the Saint Louis Zoo Association but they would prefer Grant's Farm stay in the Busch family and that the Zoo focus on ensuring that it remains an affordable, top quality attraction," Geekie said in a statement.
He also cited the prospect of "protracted litigation."
"We do not want to be a party to causing a split within the Busch family, and we strongly believe we need consensus from that family to move forward with any plans for Grant's Farm," Geekie said.