Family Reins – The Heartbreaking Fall of An American Dynasty (or – Family Reins: The Extraordinary Rise and Epic Fall of An American Dynasty) is a book by Billy Busch Sr. There’s a lot to discuss with this book, and I thought about how I wanted to approach the review, and decided I didn’t want to jump right into a biography of Billy Busch (which I will be doing in a bit). But I first also need to address that I was approached and reached out to by Rebecca Malzahn and given a free copy of this book (an Uncorrected Advanced Reading Copy – or “ARC”) in lieu of a review here on the blog / site and on our GoodReads and LibraryThing pages.
So lets first take a look at Billy Busch Sr, take a look at Grant’s Farm, and more, then dive into the book review.
Billy Busch Sr.
If you do a quick Google search on Billy Busch Sr. one of the first things that pops up is his net worth – a staggering $17.6 Billion. He has self reported in the past that his family is the “16th richest family in the world with a net of $18 Billion” (according to The Sun).
A quick biography search on Google also brings up this:
The businessman was born William K. Busch in 1954 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. As already mentioned, he belongs to the Busch family, whose business was launched by Bill’s great-great-grandfather, Adolphus Busch. Likewise, Billy Busch Sr’s father, August Anheuser Busch, aka Gussie Busch, served as the Anheuser-Busch CEO for more than two decades. He married four times in his lifetime, and Billy’s mother, Gertrude Buholzer Busch, was his third wife.
William grew up in a large household with five siblings, Adolphus A. Busch III, Peter W. Busch, Beatrice Busch von Gontrad, Trudy Busch Valentine, and Andrew D. Busch. Among them, Peter created The Busch Family Foundation, and Trudy was a Missouri Senate candidate. On the other hand, Beatrice is one of the owners of Grant’s Farm and is passionate about wildlife and environmental conservation.
“The Busch Family Brewed” stars one wing of the beer dynasty. The show focuses on Billy Busch, Sr., his wife Christi Busch, and the couple’s seven children — Billy Jr. (28), Haley (27), Abbey (25), Gussie (24), Grace (22), Maddie (17), and Peter (13) — at the time of its airing.
The show aired for one season (10 episodes) on MTV in March of 2020. The show never broke the 0.5 million viewers mark.
The Busch Family Brewed is an American reality television series that premiered on MTV on March 5, 2020. The series chronicles the lives of Billy Busch, great-grandson of Adolphus Busch; his wife Christi; and their seven children ranging in age from 28 to 13: Billy Jr., Haley, Abbey, Gussie, Grace, Maddie, and Peter.
Grant’s Farm has its own website – a tourism website – about how to visit and view the legacy farm. They are currently geared up for their summer season, which you can read about here:
Late May – August
Summer at Grant’s Farm features days of fun and exploration and nights of music and dancing!
Starting May 26, we are open daily for general admission visits, where guests can enjoy the tram ride, animal feedings, carousel rides, complimentary beer samples courtesy of premier sponsor Anheuser-Busch, and more. General admission is free. There is a parking fee.
(NEW) Grant’s Farm in the Sky: A Drone Show Spectacular
Billy Busch on his new tell-all book Family Reins: The Extraordinary Rise and Epic Fall of an American Dynasty? Written for the first time by a Busch heir, the book chronicles the iconic multi-billion-dollar Anheuser-Busch dynasty (creators of Busch, Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob brands). But with money and power, misfortune and mayhem were quick to follow suit. (Think: The Kennedys of the beer industry.)
Family Reins tells the story of a legendary American family, their rise to power, and their fall from grace through poisonous infighting, succession struggles, and a seemingly endless string of tragedies, scandals, and loss. The book also shares the family’s patriotic involvement supporting American businesses and warfare during WWI, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and WWII.
Family Reins – Press Junket
Book Title: Family Reins: The Extraordinary Rise and Epic Fall of an American Dynasty
Author: Billy Busch
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Formats: hardcover, audio, e-book
Pub Date: August 1, 2023
Family Reins: The Heartbreaking Fall of an American Dynasty — And the Discovery of What Really Matters by Billy Busch.
The story of the iconic Anheuser-Busch dynasty, written — for the first time — by a Busch heir.
As an heir to the Anheuser-Busch company and fortune, Billy Busch was raised on the real stories of how his family built one of America’s oldest and most iconic brands. Since the company was formed almost 150 years ago, the Busch family, their beer, the famous Clydesdales in their advertising, and even their style of business have become a symbol of the American dream — that not-so-outdated belief that hard work, grit, and a positive can-do attitude make anything possible.
Growing up on the family’s ancestral estate as a prince to the King of Beers, Billy lived a life only kids could dream up — living in an amusement park, traveling by private rail car and yacht, and playing with his pet elephant, Tessie. But as he grew up, he realized that the Busch family legacy was not just wealth and privilege. With no separation between family and business, Billy’s father — more boss than dad — continued the tradition of preparing the next generation for corporate leadership, with high and exacting standards for his children. For Billy, all of this, combined with a dysfunctional family environment, was all too normal.
Family Reins tells the story of a legendary American family, their rise to power, and their fall from grace through poisonous infighting, succession struggles, and a seemingly endless string of tragedies, scandals, and loss.
Family Reins: The Extraordinary Rise and Epic Fall of an American Dynasty by Billy Busch
The story of the iconic Anheuser-Busch dynasty, written — for the first time — by a Busch heir. As an heir to the Anheuser-Busch company and fortune, Billy Busch was raised on the real stories of how his family built one of America’s oldest and most iconic brands. Since the company was formed almost 150 years ago, the Busch family, their beer, the famous Clydesdales in their advertising, and even their style of business have become a symbol of the American dream — that not-so-outdated belief that hard work, grit, and a positive can-do attitude make anything possible. Growing up on the family’s ancestral estate as a prince to the King of Beers, Billy lived a life only kids could dream up — living in an amusement park, traveling by private rail car and yacht, and playing with his pet elephant, Tessie. But as he grew up, he realized that the Busch family legacy was not just wealth and privilege. With no separation between family and business, Billy’s father — more boss than dad — continued the tradition of preparing the next generation for corporate leadership, with high and exacting standards for his children. For Billy, all of this, combined with a dysfunctional family environment, was all too normal. Family Reins tells the story of a legendary American family, their rise to power, and their fall from grace through poisonous infighting, succession struggles, and a seemingly endless string of tragedies, scandals, and loss.
This is a memoir by Billy Busch Sr., in his own words, discussing his growing up in one of the most iconic families known across the world. This is the first time a member of the Busch family has released a memoir or really even discussed the family in detail. So this is kind of a ‘big deal’.
The Busch family ruled over the brewing business in America for several decades and was ranked among the wealthiest households. Budweiser has been a staple of the beer market for years upon years in America.
In an interview with St. Louis Magazine, Billy Busch – when asked “Why write this now” – said:
There’s never been a book about the Busch family published by a Busch. I thought, There’s been so many things written about our family from outsiders, so many things in the media. But none of them tell the true story of what it was like growing up in the Busch family. I had read a lot of old letters that my father left behind. My wife and I went through boxes and boxes of relics. There was one book about the company that really stood out—it wasn’t a published book but written more for the employees. It was called Making Friends Is Our Business. I read that book, and I came to a realization that this is such incredible history and that my ancestors worked so hard to build a dynasty. My grandfather kept the company going during 13 years of Prohibition, and he kept all 2,000 employees working. My father ran the brewery when I was a kid, and it was probably the time of the brewery’s greatest growth. I saw the principles he used to make the company successful. I then got a better understanding of where he got these principles—from his father, whom I never knew.
Family Reins chronicles the history of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company, makers of Budweiser beer as well as other very successful brands ver the years, from its beginnings in 1857 to today. Currently Anheuser-Busch is owned by AB InBev. The author, Billy Busch, is the great – grandson of its original founder, Adolphus Busch, who emigrated from Germany to St. Louis, Missouri. Adolphus established a supply company first, then bought a brewery from Eberhard Anheuser and married his daughter – Lilly Eberhard Anheuser. (They had twelve children). From his great – grandfather to his grandfather, father, and brother, Billy Busch tells the story of how the company survived Prohibition, the Depression, and two World Wars to become a business empire.
Adolphus Busch’s first job in St. Louis was working as a clerk in the commission house. He was also an employee at William Hainrichshofen’s wholesale company. Billy Busch goes into the detail of the family legacy, the history, and the sheer scope of their family. Talking about how the Busch family rose from that first job to the business conglomerate, world spanning empire, that they are today.
Busch partnered with Ernst Battenberg in St. Louis to found the first of his businesses, a brewing supply company that sold to the three dozen breweries in the city. Eberhard Anheuser was one of Adolphus’ customers. Anheuser was a soap manufacturer that lent money to the Bavarian Brewery. When the small brewery went bankrupt, Anheuser bought out the other creditors and renamed the company Anheuser. Adolphus married Eberhard’s daughter Lilly in 1861.
Returning to St. Louis after the Civil War, Busch entered his wife’s family’s brewery business. He bought out Eberhard’s partner, William D’Oench. In 1879, the company was renamed Anheuser-Busch.
At the death of Eberhard Anheuser in 1880, Busch became president of the business, and became wealthy due to the success of the brewery. He envisioned a national beer with universal appeal. His work was distinguished by his “timely adoption of important scientific and technological innovations, an expansive sales strategy geared largely toward external domestic and international population centers, and a pioneering integrated marketing plan that focused on a single core brand, Budweiser, making it the most successful nationally-distributed beer of the pre-Prohibition era.”
“I want to leave something to my family and this world as my ancestors did for me,” Billy Busch Sr. said at the end of July, when discussing his upcoming book release. (The book goes on sale August 1st, 2023.)
The book’s story is “[a] great American history and something people will be interested in hearing about,” Billy Busch Sr. continued, from his home in Ladue.
Billy, the third son of Gertrude, reminisces about growing up Grant’s Farm. For many the farm, the Clydesdales, and the animals represent a nostalgia. Billy refers to it as “show magic” not “real magic”. This sums up Billy’s youth, growing up, and the Grant Farm in general. The opening chapter of the book discusses a normal day at the farm for him, playing with animals, playing as a kid does, and then the ride with his parents – which he both looked forward to and loathed in its own way.
Much of life in “the Big House” at Grant’s Farm was a created spectacle for guests. Typical for the rich and the elite, nannies and staff took care of Billy and his siblings, their parents entertained celebrities, athletes, singers, and even future Presidents, people such as John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Later he writes about disagreements with his siblings and half siblings. Stating there was animosity, feuds, and quarrels. Of August Busch the Third (August III), who took over Anheuser-Busch from his father, Busch Sr. writes that his father asked him, to “sock August III in the puss if you get the chance.” (Billy Busch Sr. recalls this happening when he was 15 years old.)
Sadly, Billy Busch doesn’t go into great detail with some of the rivalries and disagreements. For those looking for more of the ‘scandalous’ stories of the Busch family, the memoir will be a bit lacking.
The half-siblings met at the Belleau Farm, for a “throw down of sorts,” Busch writes. August III defused the situation, Busch writes, by saying: “I had to do what was right in order for the company to continue to thrive. We had to make this decision. Dad is still affected by the loss of Christina emotionally and physically. He doesn’t have the strength at this point to run the company any longer.’”
Even with his father asking for it, no punch was thrown, but Billy Busch recalls that although his father remained honorary chairman of the board at Anheuser-Busch, he was certainly “humiliated.”
Through all this, Billy Busch Sr. lost control of the Grant Farm, no longer owner of the property, he is now not even allowed on the property. He says in his memoirs that he now concentrates on his children, which is evident in their reality show from MTV back in 2020.
At the wrap up of the book, Busch writes ‘life remains busy’, he says, but it’s a lucky accident that his book goes on sale the same month a new brewing venture plans its opening. (Luck or marketing?) Busch’s book goes on sale August 1 2023, and on August 25 2023, he will open Busch Family Brewing and Distilling to the public on weekends. His farm in Defiance grows hops, wheat and other products and will brew several types of beer, Busch Sr. states. “It’ll be farm-to-glass and farm-to-table,” he says. His last brewing effort, called Kräftig, (unfortunately) eventually failed. The ultimate goal – to start with – is for the Busch Family Brewery and Distillery to break even within four years.
I think I want to create something of my own. I still feel the weight of the legacy upon me. I don’t want that to be forgotten.
Billy Busch Sr.
Final Thoughts On The Book
Overall I thought it was pretty good. Skimp on some details I wished that he went into more, and not as “scandalous” as one might think given the sub – title to the memoir. I enjoyed it, and its a good look into the family. Well worth the read – especially if you are into memoirs, family history, Anheuser-Busch, or the idea of the “American Dream”.
My GoodReads Rating: **** My LibraryThing Rating: ***.5
(Just as a reminder – I was given this book for free in lieu of this review. This did not alter my thoughts or review of the book.)
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