SND: Harvey Chaplin, Who Led the Liquor Industry into the Modern Age, Dies at 95

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits chairman Harvey Chaplin, a self-made entrepreneur who turned a modest Florida spirits and wine distributorship into a national, multibillion-dollar powerhouse, passed away Sunday, June 9, of natural causes at the age of 95.

“Harvey was undoubtedly one of the great pioneers and visionaries in our industry,” said Marvin R. Shanken, chairman of M. Shanken Communications, Inc. “He left an indelible mark on the wine and spirits business.”

Chaplin began his career in 1944 while still in high school, working in the mailroom at Schenley Industries, one of the largest liquor companies of its day. He stayed at Schenley for 16 years, rising through the ranks to become assistant director of sales. In the 1960s, he moved to a Schenley distributorship in upstate New York, where the second tier became his calling. Toward the end of the decade, Chaplin left to become a partner in a new Miami-based wholesaler called Southern Wine & Spirits of America (SWS).

Launched in 1968, SWS quickly began expanding throughout Florida. In 1969 the company ventured west, gambling on the acquisition of a small California distributor called Landfield, which had less than $100 million in revenues and was losing money. In those days, distribution in the Golden State was highly fragmented, and brand loyalty was virtually non-existent. There was also a huge divide between the Southern and Northern California markets, and Landfield did little business in the north. After years of hard work, in 1984 SWS entered Northern California by acquiring a distributor called Grape Empire.

By then, Chaplin was also persuading major suppliers to grant him statewide exclusives. He spent much of his time out west during this period, developing a California business that would become the cornerstone of SWS’s nationwide expansion. “California was, is, and ever shall be the operation that changed our whole modus operandi,” Chaplin said in a 2008 interview with Marvin R. Shanken.

By 1990, sales at SWS had reached $1.3 billion, and the company was present in three states—Florida, California and Nevada. SWS had become the nation’s No.-1 spirits and wine distributor, a position it has never relinquished. Meanwhile, its geographical footprint continued to expand. By 2000, five new states had been added—South Carolina, Kentucky, New Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii—and revenues were at $3.5 billion.

For Harvey Chaplin, it was still only the beginning. The next 15 years witnessed unprecedented expansion and consolidation at the second tier, and SWS was at the forefront. By 2005, revenues had reached $6.2 billion, and the company was present in 19 states. A decade later, sales had nearly doubled to $11.8 billion, and SWS was doing business in 35 markets, holding a nearly 25 percent share of U.S. spirits and wine distribution.

In January of 2016, SWS took its biggest step yet by agreeing to join forces with Texas-based Glazer’s Inc. to create a distribution powerhouse covering 44 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Canada and the Caribbean. At the time, the deal combined SWS’s $11.8 billion in revenue with Glazer’s $3.7 billion to form a $15-billion juggernaut. Since then, that revenue number has grown to $26 billion.

Chaplin became chairman of the new Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits (SGWS), with former Glazer’s chairman Bennett Glazer serving as executive vice chairman. Chaplin’s son, Wayne—SWS’s longtime president and CEO prior to the merger—was named CEO, and former Glazer’s CEO Shelly Stein became president.

The merger agreement made SGWS the industry’s first truly national distributor, and it represented the pinnacle of Harvey Chaplin’s already-storied career. “It’s a wonderful feeling to get this deal done,” he told Marvin R. Shanken in an exclusive interview with Shanken News Daily in January of 2016. “We’ll now set about growing the business.”

“I think about…

Source : https://www.winespectator.com/articles/liquor-industry-leader-harvey-chaplin-has-died