January 11, 2006

Saying Good Bye to Sidney Frank

Sidney Frank ObituarySidney Frank, we hardly knew ye. From Gray Goose to Jägermeister, we've been fans of Sidney Frank for a long time, but we just didn't know it. And now, after we've just discovered this liquor magnate, we've lost him. Mr. Frank died yesterday at age 86, of an apparent heart failure. The man was more than a liquor importer - he was a billionaire and a philanthropist who pulled himself up to the top of his industry from beginnings that apparently would have made Horatio Alger cringe.

So, we'll celebrate his life and let Forbes tell you about the liquor that first brought Mr. Frank to success.

Then came Jägermeister. In 1974, Frank stumbled on the obscure German liqueur in a New York bar. Tasting of root beer, black licorice and Vicks Formula 44, older Europeans had been drinking the stuff since 1935 for its medicinal purposes, rather than its strong buzz. At the time, Jägermeister was selling just 600 cases per year in the U.S. Seeing opportunity, Frank flew to Germany to meet then-Jäger Chief Executive Walter Sandvoss and came home with the rights to sell the drink from Maryland to Florida. Other suppliers faltered, and Frank picked up the rest of the country.

In 1986, Frank was struck with another obvious observation: "People love sex." He parlayed the drink's early success in southern college towns with the Jägerettes, a group of scantily clad girls who would flirt with male students and convince them to down shots of Jäger instead of Jack Daniels. Last year, sales grew to 2 million cases per year.

You can learn more about Mr. Frank's beginnings and end at Forbes.com, while we start our wake. We have a bottle in the freezer as we speak.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at January 11, 2006 7:48 PM
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