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Former chairman of family business Brown-Forman dies

By Rashmi Kumar

Owsley Brown II, former chairman and chief executive of family-controlled wine and liquor company Brown-Forman, died on 26 September aged 69.

The great-grandson of the founder of the company, Brown died after a brief illness, said a statement by the American beverage group.

Brown, who started his career at the family business in 1968, became its chief executive in 1993 and took over as chairman two years later.

During his tenure, he spearheaded the international expansion of the company by introducing its brands, including Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Southern Comfort liqueur, to markets outside the US.

In his 12 years at the helm of Brown-Forman, Brown added more brands to its portfolio through the acquisitions of Finlandia vodka, wine group Sonoma-Cutrer and Tuaca liqueur.

Brown, who stepped down from the chief executive role in 2005 and as chairman in 2007, is well known for his philanthropy – he was president of the family’s Owsley Brown Charitable Foundation, which gave more than $1.2 million (€880,000) in 2006 and 2008 to various causes.

“Owsley instilled a culture of enduring growth for which the board and family are truly indebted. The continued strength of the company and its role as a responsible global citizen are the greatest testaments to his life’s work,” said Garvin Brown IV, current chairman of the board of directors and Brown’s cousin.

Brown is survived by his wife, three children and nine grandchildren. The descendants of company founder George Garvin Brown together hold around 67% of the voting rights at the business, which featured in CampdenFB's list of top 100 family businesses in North America. Brown-Forman had sales of $3.4 billion in fiscal 2011.

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