Brown-Forman’s New President

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March 18, 2015 by Bourbon Empire

When we think of the word “bourbon,” it’s easy to forget its roots in the name of the old French monarchy, of hereditary aristocracy. Even so, bourbon giant Brown-Forman today announced that Campbell Brown, the fifth-generation descendant of company founder George Garvin Brown, would be taking over as president of Old Forester. Bourbon fans will surely wish him well — it’s a classic brand and one that has resisted much of the frou-frou up marketing of the spirit in recent years. The brand remains a classic: balanced, affordable, and easy to find. It’s a benchmark on a million different levels.

The announcement also urged me to go digging into my research materials and dig out the company’s 1970 annual report. For its 100-year anniversary, Brown-Forman hired Pulitzer Prize winner John Ed Pearce to write the report’s introduction, and it contains a small nugget of information signposting Campbell Brown’s move some 45 years later. In a brief history of the company’s during the twentieth century, Pearce writes that when William Lee Lyons Brown and George Garvin Brown II took over Brown-Forman decades earlier, they implemented a policy of “Planned Nepotism,” under which the sons of Brown-Forman officials (and other employees) were encouraged to seek careers within the company. “We’ve got reasons,” Lyons said, “to believe that these young men will inherit qualities from their fathers who built the company.”

The language is admittedly a bit antiquated, and doesn’t exactly have the sort of ring the company probably wants to promote, but let’s hope the intended sentiment nevertheless holds true. It’s a great brand that deserves to be held up as a benchmark of bourbon at it’s best: unfussy, unpretentious, resistant to hype, and generally rock solid.

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