cover image Family Reins: The Heartbreaking Fall of an American Dynasty

Family Reins: The Heartbreaking Fall of an American Dynasty

Billy Busch. Blackstone, $27.99 (238p) ISBN 979-8-200-79882-7

Busch chronicles the ups and downs of his life as an heir of the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, and the circumstances that eventually led his family to lose control of the business, in this juicy debut memoir. He describes a seemingly idyllic childhood roaming his bucolic family estate outside St. Louis—complete with an amusement park and a pet elephant—and contrasts it with sketches of his emotionally absent parents (“I often sought solace from the people who worked for us, never once thinking to go to my parents for such things as affection and comfort”) and real-life family rivalries that could compete with Succession. Supplemented by eclectic photographs depicting the Busch family’s lavish lifestyle, the narrative details how their company overcame obstacles including Prohibition, only to be acquired by Belgian giant InBev in 2008 after the family’s ownership stake of the public company had dwindled over several decades. Busch’s efforts to “be present” and break the generational patterns of dysfunction with his wife and seven children add emotional depth, but his workmanlike prose sometimes falls flat (he sees “the varnish fade from the Busch Family Fairy Tale” several times). Still, as a bittersweet examination of an American business empire in decline, this succeeds. Photos. Agent: Mel Berger, WME. (Aug.)