Title: President and Chief Executive Officer
Company: Anchor Brewers and Distillers
Birthplace: Born in Bournemouth, England. Spent my teens in Singapore. Moved to America in 1985 and became a US citizen in 2001.
Education: A degree in Civil Engineering, an MBA in Marketing, and a Diploma in Market Research.
How did you get to where you are today: I started as a civil engineer, which I enjoyed, deriving much satisfaction from seeing the physical results. However, the profession is subject to economic fluctuations, and in downturns the compensation for the effort was poor.
I was always fascinated by brands and advertising. I quit my career in engineering. Starting from scratch on my own, I enrolled in an MBA program and completed the program. During the MBA program I started my own business, which gave me a taste of operating a business. Although that business was not successful, it was a good learning experience. I was lucky to find a position with International Distillers and Vintners, a London based company, and I moved to the States with them in 1985. I worked at the company until 1997 and progressed to the Vice Presidency level. During my time at this company, I worked closely with Tony Foglio, my key business partner today.
I moved to San Francisco in 1998 as Chief Operating Officer of Skyy Spirits, LLC and helped develop this embryonic company through the end of 2006 into a major spirits player. The company was sold in stages to Campari over that period.
I left Skyy Spirits, LLC in 2007 and started The Griffin Group, LLC.
In 2007, I started with a blank piece of paper, knew a lot about the industry, wasn't certain where I was headed, explored a lot of different avenues, and ended up going down the artisanal craft route. This turned out to be right direction for the Company, given its size.
It has been a great journey ever since.
Business goal for the next 12 months: My business goal for the next year is completing the infrastructure development for Anchor Brewing Company and Anchor Distilling Company. This will provide a full national footprint from a sales perspective. Another goal is to determine a second site for our second brewery. We are expanding quickly and will outgrow our current production capability by 2014. Currently, we have some great plans and future ideas in discussion. The potential for Anchor is amazing.
Best business decision: Quitting engineering and 16 years later quitting the corporate environment.
Moving Skyy Vodka from a product proposition to an image proposition.
Other great business decisions were pursuing the purchase of Anchor and creating Anchor Brewers and Distillers.
Also, selecting a team for Anchor's senior management was a huge business decision. I am very proud of the management team.
Toughest business decision: Toughest business decision is my commitment to making necessary leadership changes in a company. When you have a vision of where you want to go, the leadership changes have a dramatic impact on a Company.
Person most admired: I certainly admire Fritz Maytag for what he has achieved. Fritz did an incredible job at Anchor Brewing Company starting back in the '60s with a strong personal commitment and with his vision of the world wanting a better tasting beer. What he achieved is phenomenal and must have taken a lot of courage along the way. He has tremendous respect of those who worked with him as well as his peers in the industry. Finally, despite our hugely different approach to life and business, he could see the need for big change and trusted us to deliver Anchor into the next generation while maintaining the quality of the beer and integrity of the company. I've got to love Fritz for that!
Like most about job: Achievement - implementing new plans, strategies and changes. Getting the job done. That is where the satisfactions come from. I have great fulfillment, looking back over the course of a year, at the milestones we've accomplished. Building a bridge is similar to building businesses and brands. You have to get the design and foundation right from which to build upward in a sustainable manner maximizing the available resources. Once you achieve something, it is immensely satisfying to stand back and admire the end product of one's hard work and efforts.
The beverage alcohol business is a real people business. I meet a lot of different people from many different walks of life, which is great.
Like least about job: Attempting to obtain credit in this current environment and dealing with complex accounting regulations which do not have much meaning for the overall business operations.
Dream job: Got it!
What would you do if you weren't doing this: If I weren't doing this, I would be building brands elsewhere. I describe myself as a serial brand builder. Building brands is challenging and has long time frames, but it is also great fun. You are creating things that mean something to people while serving a need. When you get it right, huge value is created.
behind the suit
Favorite book: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson
Favorite movie: The Star Wars Series
Outside of work: Outside of work, I enjoy my landscaping. I live on a steep hill so you have to be creative in combining utility and aesthetics. My current passion is the vegetable garden and keeping gophers out of it.
Community: My spouse and I contribute a lot of time helping the Novato schools raise funds. Also, I'm supporting the effort to re-open the long shuttered downtown Novato Theater.
Family: I have three daughters. The eldest daughter is a graduate of UC Berkeley and considering options to pursue a PhD degree. She is also a long distance runner hoping to make the Olympic trials in the 10K this June.
My second daughter is a senior at San Diego State University studying marketing. She interns with Lambesis, a renowned ad agency. She recently shared some of her work with me, not easy given my background. I was delighted. She gets it - not something everyone can.
My youngest daughter is 15 years of age and a freshman in high school where her favorite activity is sports and within that basketball. Though she does make a mean lacrosse goalie.
My spouse continues to contribute significant time to helping the local schools.
Title: Executive Chairman
Company: Anchor Brewers and Distillers
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York. Moved to California in 1998. Timing was right as the kids were grown and out of the house so it was just my wife and myself. It's been a good move.
Education: Southern Illinois University. I studied Sociology. Not sure it helped too much in my career but sociology is all about people and cultures so it's always helpful when working with people.
How did you get to where you are today: After college I went into the military, and then went to work for Scott Paper Company in Chicago as a salesman. It was good training but after a few years I was looking for something more. So I got a job as District Manager with Heublein in their beer division (Theodore Hamm Brewing Company). I progressed through various sales management positions in different locations, and stayed at Heublein for 15 years. At one point I transferred to Northern California with them, but at the time my wife and I felt the schools were not up to our standards, and we couldn't afford private schools, so I chose to find another job in an area with better schools. I was fortunate to be able to move to Connecticut and find a position with International Distillers and Vintners, a London based company with offices at the time in New York. I progressed through their ranks to President and CEO of the Paddington Corporation. This is where I met and worked with my future partner at Skyy and Anchor - Keith Greggor. At one point Keith and I tried, through Paddington, to purchase the Skyy Vodka brand. At the time was as close to a start-up company as you could get. We couldn't buy it but the owner offered me a job and equity to help build it, so I worked with Keith to develop a plan and we both moved to San Francisco in 1998 to help build Skyy Vodka, the brand and spirits company. Keith and I sold our interest in Skyy Vodka in the late 2000's, and were both looking for something to do, we got involved with Preiss Imports and purchased it. Preiss Imports is a San Diego based company of high-end artisanal spirits and two craft beers. When Keith and I got into it, we recognized that the craft beer business was on the cusp of exploding, and we needed to build a strong platform to hire top quality people. The idea behind Anchor Brewers and Distillers is to unite craft beers and artisanal spirits.
Business goal for the next 12 months: We want to make Anchor available to more people and expand the company. We bought it for three reasons: 1) it had a great history, and was truly authentic and a strong brand; 2) it offered the opportunity to build a prestigious and heritage-driven business, which could merge with our Preiss Imports business and marry craft beer and authentic heritage-driven high quality artisanal spirits; and 3) Anchor is a San Francisco icon we wanted to keep it in San Francisco.
Advice you wish you had known: The previous owner Fritz was unbelievably open and honest - he told us everything about the business. I wish I had known how difficult it can be to raise capital. (In the back of my mind I knew it was going to be difficult.) But in the end it was rewarding as it fell into place. I know now how important it is to rely on experience and people. It's been a lot of resilience, momentum and vision to get to where we are today. I think of it is like a puzzle - does this piece fit? Keith and I have different skill sets and they marry quite well - I couldn't have done it without him. We've maintained our faith in the vision and been fortunate to have a strong support system to help with it.
Best business decision: Leaving a large conglomerate and going to a small family business. I couldn't have made the move without the large company experience so it definitely helped to get me to next stage. But the challenge with a big company is that you become more and more specialized and further from the action. With a smaller company, you have the responsibility of doing everything and make decisions where you can see and feel the consequences immediately. The timeline is shorter.
Toughest business decision: Leaving the security of a big firm and all the perks, including my stock options! It was scary to do it but I have a supportive wife and it was the right decision for us.
Person most admired: Charlie Herbert, President of Spirit Division of Heublein. I admired his work ethic, honesty, and compassion for people but also his toughness in making very difficult decisions. He left me with a model that I've carried with me to this day - don't confuse kindness with weakness. He always had his eye on the prize and helped me to see that there are a lot of ways to get to where you need to go. It doesn't always have to be the way you personally would have done. Look down the road then look behind you and see how you've managed to accomplish the things you have.
Like most about job: The industry, people, sales, marketing, growing businesses, and engagement of it all. I remember once back at Paddington, we had international brands and often had to take trips overseas to visit the plants. Years ago a young man came up to me to say thank you - he would never have traveled overseas without the company. And it struck me that a company could affect someone's life so dramatically. We have to grow the business, we have to have the skills and enthusiasm to do it but if can add something positive to peoples' lives along the way that's a good thing.
Like least about job: Worrying about numbers and cash flow.
What would you do if you weren't doing this: I would have stayed in school, got an advanced degree and become a teacher.
behind the suit
Favorite book: There are two books - Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand, which people either love or dislike and nothing in-between, and Killer Angels' by Michael Shaara, which is about the Civil War.
Favorite movie: It used to be The Godfather until Gladiator came along.
Outside of work: Mostly spending time with my wife and enjoying San Francisco.
Community: Not anymore. Used to in New York but not so much out in California.
Family: Son in Seattle and a daughter in Alexandria, Virginia. We have two grandkids.Back