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2020 In-House Counsel Awards: John Godar

Public company

Associate General Counsel, Anheuser-Busch

John GodarWhen asked how he likes his job, John Godar has no trouble coming up with an answer.

“If you were a kid growing up in St. Louis and there is even a chance to work at a place like Anheuser-Busch you [have to] look at that,” he said. “I interviewed, and it just worked out. Obviously, I was very happy with how it worked out because I’m still here.”

In fact, he’s been there for 30 years and now serves as associate general counsel for wholesaler development. In that role, he has been invaluable in dealing with sales transactions, administrative law proceedings and working on the company’s 1997 wholesaler equity agreement, which governs the sole route to market for A-B’s iconic products.

“The business stakeholders he advises recognize John for deep subject-matter expertise and experience in the field of alcohol regulation, but above all else they respect and come to rely upon his judgment and counsel on the many sensitive matters that have crossed his desk,” his nominator wrote.

A graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law, Godar spent three years at the forerunner of Thompson Coburn before joining the brewing giant as an assistant general counsel. His tenure there has been notable for his ability to influence the company’s younger lawyers.

“I’ve had the opportunity to mentor a good number of folks, and I’ve got to tell you, I think it speaks to our management here — legal and overall management — that the caliber of legal talent that is here continues to really be impressive,” he said.

While some attorneys like to tout their work on important matters, Godar said he sees a corporate attorney’s greatest accomplishment as ensuring that major issues never become major in the first place.

“A big thing with in-house counsel is that you try to prevent any issues from bubbling to the top or becoming a big issue,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a big win if there is no litigation or if there is no ‘something’ that happened.”

It is all part of what he enjoys about being a corporate counsel, a career path he believes fits well with his personality.

“I did not enjoy filling out timesheets,” he said, recalling his days in a firm. “But when you are in-house, there are benefits to being with outside counsel as well, and maybe you don’t appreciate those until you are in-house, so both have their advantages.”

Godar said many things have changed during his time in the field — both in the industry and in his company, which merged with InBev in 2008. Still, one thing has stayed the same.

“The types of people that you meet and work with in our industry, I think, are hard to beat,” he said. “To me, it’s the biggest attraction to working in this industry. The beer business is a fun business, and that is reflected, I think, in the people. Our clients work as hard as anybody you know to sell and market our beers, and it’s very competitive, but it’s just great people we get to work with.”