: views from the Hill

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sidney Frank, creator of Grey Goose vodka

We live an exciting life, we do, reading newspapers and magazines to each other over dinner.

His nibs was reading an article from the Brown University alumni magazine to me -- an obit for Sidney Frank, who'd given a bucketload of money (the most of anyone ever) to Brown, even though he'd dropped out and never graduated.

Sidney Frank's $100 million donation to Brown in 2004 was targeted for undergraduate scholarships, to make sure other students didn't drop out, as he had, because they couldn't afford school.

Frank started Sidney Frank Importing in 1972 after a career with Schenley Distillers where he helped market brands such as Dewar's White Label.

Sidney Frank Importing had hard times at the beginning. Sidney Frank developed a habit of wandering around, checking into bars, seeing what people were drinking. He noticed the Germans in Yorkville bars were drinking something called Jägermeister. The sales weren't spectacular, but they were steady, and he decided to secure the U.S. importing rights.

Well, fine, Sidney Frank Importing had the importing rights to Jägermeister but the sales were just steady at 500 cases a year from 1972, when he acquired the rights, until a decade later when a newspaper story in the Baton Rouge Advocate passed on rumors that Jägermeister was an aphrodisiac. No dummy he, Sidney Frank made photocopies of the story and sent a crew of hotties to the bars to distribute the photocopies. Allzasudden Jägermeister took off.

In the first half of 2005, Sidney Frank Importing sold two million cases of Jägermeister.

Marketing genius? Your call.

Later (1996), Sidney Frank decided the time was ripe for a cult vodka. He created Grey Goose, which he marketed. He contracted with the French to make an elegant French vodka. He named it Grey Goose and priced it at a premium, rather than try to undercut the competition. He designed the smoked glass bottle. He shipped it in wood boxes.

Sidney Frank wanted to make a trendy vodka. He did. Sex and the City helped move the vodka when the characters asked for Grey Goose cosmos.

A couple years back Sidney Frank sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for $2 billion cash. His $100 million donation to Brown followed, as did bonuses to everyone in the company. Grey Goose made everyone at Sidney Frank Importing rich.

Sidney Frank, creator of Grey Goose vodka, dies at 86.


Age 86.

But what a ride he had.


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