If you’ve been following the Lance Armstrong story over the past weeks, you know that he now has lost all his sponsors including ABI where he had been hired as a spokesperson for Michelob Ultra. The fact that ABI was using Armstrong reminded me of all the athletes and celebrities who have, or were, involved in the beer business at one time. As Coors expanded their footprint in the 70’s and 80’s, many ex athletes, and some politicians were appointed distributors. Coors appointed individuals including: Bob Lily, Bob Aspermonte, Joe Morgen, John Myers, Pete Rose, Dan Devine, Tom Selleck, Willie Davis, and Roy Butler (ex-mayor of Austin) to name a few. AB, of course, had distributors the likes of Roger Maris. Most of these appointments didn’t work out. In fact, when I worked at Coors in the 80’s, I mentioned several times how grateful I was for these appointments as my job was to go in and “clean up” some of these messes.
Charlie Duke, Jr. was appointed the distributor in San Antonio (NE) in 1975. Charlie was the 10th man to walk on the moon and later became an Air Force General. His financial partner was a man by the name of Richard J. Boushka. At the time, Dick was the President of Vickers Energy Company out of Wichita, Kansas. At 6’6″, Dick had been an all-American basketball player at St. Louis University in the fifties and was later drafted by the Lakers. In those days there was no money in professional basketball, so Dick (a petroleum engineer grad) went to work at Vickers. The company sponsored AAU basketball teams, which, at the time were big. In addition to winning two AAU national titles, Dick played on the 1956 US Olympic basketball team with Bill Russell and won a gold medal. By the time he was 26, he was the sales manager and by 29, he was the President of Vickers. Dick had five sons, all of whom were all-state in various sports in Kansas and went on to play college ball. Two sons played football for Notre Dame and one was on the team when the Irish won a national championship.
In San Antonio, Charlie was President of Coors NE and ran the company successfully, but after almost three years, he decided that being a Coors distributor wasn’t what he wanted to do. I always thought running a beer distributorship could not have been much of a challenge to someone who walked on the moon. After the sale, with Dick’s help, I got the GM job at Coors of Kansas. Dick always said to “find another distributorship we can buy,” so I did. We bought Texas Beers in the Rio Grande Valley and almost immediately we disagreed on how it should be run. He structured the purchase with no equity in a leveraged buy-out. Given the economic conditions, the sale of Schlitz to Stroh, high unemployment, and high interest rates, we struggled. In 1986, in an effort to save the business, I had a deal to buy the Coors operation in the lower Valley (South Padre Island), which was pre-approved by Coors,. Unfortunately, the deal was turned down by Dick. I was always able to run the company profitably (before interest), but after the Coors decision I saw no future. In early 1987 I left Texas Beers. Dick sold his part soon after, and the company only survived another five years, then sold. It’s now part of Glazer’s.
Fifteen years or so later, a former Kansas Coors wholesaler, who was now living in Dallas, called me and said he had heard the Dick had gotten into trouble with the government. After searching the papers I learned that Dick had been arrested and charged with bank fraud. Dick later pleaded guilty on four counts of fraud, his assets were seized by the government, and he sent to the federal prison.
I always wondered how a person who seemed to have everything: money, fame, family, respect, and admiration could do what he did and lose it all. For what? Armstrong, Boushka, and many others have come and gone from the beer industry, and as far as I see, it is good riddance!