William ‘Bill’ Coors – Former Chairman of Molson-Coors Brewing, Dies at 102

If you drink beer, the Coors family name should be a familiar one to you. Proud manufacturer of such popular American beers as Coors Light, Coors Brewing Company was founded in 1875 in Golden, Colorado. Today they are the third largest brewer worldwide. They grew rapidly in the past decade or so, after merging with Canadian brewer Molson in 2005 and acquiring the Miller Brewing company brands from fellow conglomerate SABMiller in 2016.

A Coors Life

Much of that merger with Molson was orchestrated by one-time CEO Bill Coors, who passed away on the morning of October the 15th 2018 at his home in Colorado. The grandson of Coors Brewing company founder Adolph Coors, Bill was born in 1916 and attended Princeton University – graduating in 1939 with a degree in chemical engineering.

He originally sought a job at chemical manufacturer Dupont, in order to avoid the stigma of nepotism. However, by 1930 he had joined the family business and quickly rose up the ranks. When his brother, Adolph III, was murdered in a botched kidnapping in 1940, Bill took over as CEO.

Within a few short years, Bill had taken Coors to the next level – cementing their status as a brewer of national reputation and reach. He was instrumental in developing the recyclable aluminium beer cans that would become standard in the industry for the next 80 years or more. He was also crucial in the drive to introduce Coors Light in the 1970s, which is now the second most popular beer (by sales) in the US.

“The fact that we survived and even grew over the years when so many breweries went out of business was an accomplishment that all Coors employees can be proud of,” Bill once said at that time.

Fixing Controversies

However, Bill’s 63-year association with the Coors company was not without its hitches. In the 1980s he was accused of making racist remarks in a speech to the Minority Business Development Centre in Denver.

Bill apologised the next day in a press conference and reaffirmed his commitment to anti-racist action. Despite a string of boycotts against Coors products, over the next year Bill was instrumental in brokering a deal with the NAACP campaign group that bought an end to the hostilities. In the wake of the controversy, Coors overhauled their labour policies and opened an employee welfare centre – which is still running today. They also started several funds to invest in disadvantaged a communities, a legacy which Bill’s descendants can be proud of, alongside his prodigious commercial achievements.

Bill retired in 2003, at the age of 87 – although he remained on in an advisory position as well as the honorary role of official beer taster. He was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 1996. ‘Our company stands on the shoulders of giants like Bill Coors. His dedication, hard work and ingenuity, helped shape not only our company but the entire beer industry… Cheers to you Uncle Bill!’ said current Molson-Coors CEO Mark Hunter in a statement. Bill is survived by his children Margaret, May Louise and Williams Scott as well as seven grand-children and four great-grandchildren.