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Brewery still a family business for alum Pete Coors

Alumnus Peter Coors, MBA '70, juggles the roles of corporate giant and family man. Photo: Michael Richmond

What you see is what you get with Peter Coors, MBA ’70. He loves his business, and he loves his family. And even though he operates the $5.4-billion Coors Brewing Co. in Golden, Colo., family never plays second fiddle.

“Sorry I was little late. My daughter stopped by with my grandson this morning,” says Coors, greeting this interviewer. The 58-year-old chairman of the Coors Brewing and Adolph Coors companies sports an easy grin and exudes homespun charm. It’s easy to picture the executive, who has six children, dandling his namesake 18-monthold grandchild.

“I suspect that some see this as a dynasty, but that is a fairly inaccurate description of how we operate,” he says. “In many ways, we are just like any other family. We have our warts and we have our heroes.”

But, not all families operate the world’s eighth largest brewery or have remained so closely linked to the day-to-day operations of a company established five generations ago.

“It is special to be part of this legacy, part of this family,” says the great-grandson of Adolph Coors, who founded the brewery in 1873. “And, although we are now publicly traded, the employees still look to the family for direction.”

After majoring in engineering at Cornell University, Coors returned to Colorado in 1969 to study at DU, bringing with him his college sweetheart and new wife Marilyn, MS ’71, MA ’91, PhD ’98.

Coors had worked at the brewery every summer since he was 14 but hadn’t thought much about making a career of the family business. “But, my father called me one day and said, ‘It’s time for you to go to work.'”

He started in the waste treatment department and had to enroll in the brewery’s 18-month training program — just like everyone else.

The younger members of the Coors clan will also have to earn their stripes before taking a place in the family business. “The rule now is that they must work for two years outside of the company before they can come and work here,” Coors explains. “They need to work at a company where their name is not the product. But that said, family members are what make this company special.”

Peter Coors is part of that special recipe. Under his leadership, the company has become the third-largest brewer in the nation and is in 30 international markets. It was the broader business concepts he learned at DU, Coors says, that helped him take the family business to the next level.

“We were in 11 states, and we were growing 10 percent a year. I headed up our first financial plan in ’73 and our public offering in ’75,” says Coors, who also led the first major marketing campaign in the company’s history.

So, what does Peter Coors want to accomplish that he hasn’t already done? “I want to be a United States senator, but that didn’t work out,” he says with a grin, alluding to his 2004 U.S. Senate race. Anticipating the next question, he quickly adds, “Whether we do it again or not, I don’t have to worry about that for a while.”

Coors has more immediate concerns. “I haven’t taken care of the transition of the business to the next generation of family members, and that is my number one responsibility,” he says.

But don’t take that as a sign that he’ll be leaving the brewing business any time soon.

“We have a full plate growing our product, and convincing people to pick up our products is a never-ending quest,” he says. “There’s no problem maintaining my passion.”

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