In the spring of 1978, I was informed by the owner of Coors NE in San Antonio, Charles M. Duke, Jr., a retired Air Force General and the 10th man to walk on the moon, that he had decided to sell the operation to the Azar family of El Paso.
When informed of the pending sale I was totally caught off guard. As the VP, I had helped build the company when Charlie was award the franchise in 1975. With only Coors in our inventory, we had been able to achieve a market share of 13% while running a profitable and growing company.
Compared to walking on the moon, running and owning a beer distributorship was somewhat anti-climactic, so Charlie sold. The Azar family, a highly successful and longtime Coors wholesaler in El Paso, had their own idea on how to run the distributorship and it did not include me.
With the help of Charlie’s partner, who lived in Kansas, I received a call from Coors of Kansas. The President, Terry Scanlon, who was also the state Democratic chairman, was looking for a general manager. While I was impressed with Terry and the operation, as Coors had about a 60% share, my family and I had reservations about moving to Kansas.
Shortly after returning to San Antonio, I received a call from Terry’s partner, R.D. Hubbard. At the time, Hubbard was the President of Safelite Auto glass. R.D., “Dee,” asked me to come out to his Palm Springs home for a visit. He was awaiting my arrival at the small airport, wearing all white with gold chains, and driving the top-of-the-line Mercedes. This was quite a sight for me considering I was only 27. After spending most of the day with Dee and hearing his story, I knew I had to work for him, and I agreed to take the job.
Dee was from a small town in the middle of Kansas and after graduating from college, he became a middle school teacher and basketball coach. During the school break one summer, Dee was hired by a senior executive at Safelite and within a year he had become a key employee of the company. He was quickly promoted, fired the man who hired him, and became the President. Safelite took off.
Dee started investing in numerous businesses, including real estate and race tracks. He branched out and starting buying quarter horses and eventually owned the horse, Denim and Diamonds, which made it all the way to the All American Futurity in Ruidoso. Dee also owned Ruidoso Downs race track.
Safelite was owned by Lear Sieglar, and when the opportunity for Safelite to purchase a large glass manufacturer in Kingsport, TN, the purchase was rejected by the Chairman of Lear Sieglar. Dee bought out the non-profitable glass company, and within a year he had turned the business into profitable entity. Dee named the glass manufacturer AFG Industries.
Dee and Terry had purchased the Coors operation from the previous owner who had recorded a pricing conversation between himself and the Coors rep. The conversation resulted in Coors getting fined by the government. By the end of 1978, Dee made Terry an offer for his half of the business and Terry sold out.
We had great success over the next two years, including buying the Hutchinson operation. Due to the strict Kansas residency laws I could not own any of the business. I bought Texas Beers and moved back to the Lone Star State. Dee sold the business to Larry Fleming who still maintains ownership of the distributor.
Dee went on the buy more race tracks across the country, including Hollywood Park. Dee also bought Big Horn Golf Club in Palm Desert in 1996, along with 12 other courses. Palm Desert has been a great success and Dee now resides there.
In some ways, Dee might be called one of the first private equity investors in beer. He is a remarkable investor and did well in the short time he owned Coors of Kansas. He truly is The Wizard of Oz….
BBU Honor Roll;
2014 – R.D. Hubbard – Coors Distributor
2013 – George Henricksen – Royal Imports
2012 – Diane Fall – Warsteiner
THIS IS THE LAST POST OF 2014. NEXT ONE WILL BE JANUARY 6, 2015. HAVE A GREAT CHRISTSMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Beer fodder: Not beer but a great commercial for Christmas!