Thirty-five years ago, establishing a new beer was not a frequent occurrence and so doing resulted in a bit of a stir. That beer was Corona. In a few short short years, the brand had made the move to the clear longneck bottle and the results were immediate. Sales in South Texas took off. The Corona wholesalers, in fact, ran short of supply as they could not acquire adequate inventory from Mexico.
About that time, a young sales manager from Barton Brands, Bill Hackett, decided to fly to South Texas to find out just what the commotion was all about. Bill saw a tremendous opportunity in Corona and Barton soon picked up import rights for the Modelo’s beers. A couple of years later, the importing rights were shared with Gambrinus until Constellation (Barton) reacquired all of the U.S.
When Mike Mazzoni left Barton in the late 1980s, Bill took the reigns as president. After decades of leadership under Bill, it was recently announced that he has retired from Constellation, thus closing the book on one of the most highly thought of supplier executives in the beer industry.
Bill’s legacy is one of respect…. respect within all three industry tiers of the beer industry. Bill’s contemporary suppliers admired his leadership and success. While he was leading Corona, the brand’s growth was unprecedented. Retailers loved the marketing support Bill provided behind the Modelo brands and the higher-ring the brands produced. It was, however, with the middle tier that Bill was most respected.
Bill believed in the wholesaler and the wholesaler believed in Bill. Bill felt that wholesalers were the key to Corona’s success and he built the Modelo brands on this philosophy. Bill instilled that culture of the wholesalers’ importance into the employees of Barton/Constellation and the result was a win-win for all.
Earlier this decade a California wholesaler, who had sold their Modelo distribution rights to the AB network, filed a lawsuit against Constellation Brands. The wholesaler asked for compensation for being denied the opportunity to purchase existing Modelo rights from another wholesaler. The reason the wholesaler had been denied was due to poor performance with their Modelo brands. Instead of beginning termination proceedings, Constellation sent in a sales team to help the wholesaler turn around their performance. Within a year, that wholesaler, with Constellation’s help, won the best wholesaler award for the given time period. This example of Bill’s leadership speaks volumes as to his view of wholesaler relationships.
Baron Beers’ annual wholesaler meeting, traditionally held late winter/early spring in Palm Springs, was the talk of the industry. Wholesalers never missed that convention.
Bill’s legacy is well documented and he will be considered, by all three industry tiers, to be one of the very best beer executives of all time. Bill will be missed.
When I see the annual Christmas ad for Corona on the island with the lights on the palm tree, I will always remember Bill.
El Rey – The King…