A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sports Notes: Triple Crown Winner's Owner Once Ran Egypt's Stella Brewery

The main news on  Saturday was the victory of thoroughbred American Pharoah (officially so spelled on his registration, so racing fans will never spell "pharaoh" correctly again) in the Belmont Stakes, making him the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown. You may already know that he is owned by Egyptian-American businessman and breeder Ahmed Zayat. I thought it worth mentioning that Zayat (besides identifying himself variously as both Muslim and an Orthodox Jew; a Yeshiva graduate and living in an Orthodox neighborhood in Teaneck, New Jersey) used to run Egypt's Al Ahram Beverages Company, which among other things brews Stella Beer, a number of other beers, and produces Gianaclis wines.

Al Ahram beverages had been nationalized under Nasser and its quality control suffered; when it was privatized in 1997 Zayat  and a group of investors bought it, expanded its product line (including a non-alcoholic beer) and improved quality control. In 2002 the company was sold to the Heineken group, though Zayat remained involved in its management until 2007.

So if you have access to a bottle of Stella, raise a glass to a record-making three year old thoroughbred with a misspelled name.

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