Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gus Griffin, Formerly with Brown-Forman, Is New MGPI CEO

On Thursday, the Board of Directors of MGP Ingredients, Inc. (Nasdaq/MGPI) announced the appointment of beverage alcohol industry executive Gus Griffin as their new president and CEO.

MGPI is a company that makes beverage alcohol and other products from grain. Its distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which makes whiskey, has become a very important vendor to the non-distiller producer community.

Griffin also comes to MGPI after a period of heavy corporate turmoil, that culminated in the ouster of his predecessor seven months ago.

Encouraging for fans of MGP's whiskeys, Griffin is a marketing and management guy, formerly with Brown-Forman Corp., where he ultimately served as senior vice president and global managing director in charge of the company’s flagship Jack Daniel’s business.

“We are very pleased and excited to welcome Gus to our company in such an important capacity,” said MGP Board Chairman Cloud L. “Bud” Cray.

Griffin most recently spent a year as executive vice president of marketing for Next Level Spirits, a northern California-based producer, importer and distributor of premium wine and spirits brands. His responsibilities in that position included establishing strategic planning disciplines and spearheading all aspects of corporate, consumer and trade marketing. Just prior to that, between 2011 and 2013, Griffin served as brand and business consultant for Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, Nashville, Tenn., where he performed a key advisory role in that company’s development and launch of Belle Meade Bourbon.

(Note: the whiskey in Belle Meade Bourbon is made by MGP of Indiana.)

“I am excited to join MGP and to have the opportunity to help shape the next stage of the company’s proud history,” Griffin said. “MGP has a rich heritage, a strong reputation for quality and innovation, and all areas of the business have significant growth potential.”

Griffin’s career with Brown-Forman, a leading global wine and spirits company with annual sales of approximately $4 billion, spanned 24 years. He joined that company, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., as a merchandising representative in 1987 and later moved into sales management. From 1990 to 1997, he advanced through a series of increasingly important brand management roles in Brown-Forman’s U.S. marketing organization. His brand assignments included Old Forester Bourbon, Southern Comfort Liqueur, Southern Comfort Cocktails, Jack Daniel’s Beer and Early Times Kentucky Whiskey.

In 1997, Griffin was named vice president and managing director of Brown-Forman’s Pacific Region, relocating to Sydney, Australia, to lead all aspects of this multi-million dollar operating unit. Chief among his responsibilities was driving profitable results through the oversight of marketing, sales, finance and production. He returned to the company’s headquarters in Louisville in 2001, assuming responsibility for the Jack Daniel’s brand for the Asia Pacific Region. Within a year, he was appointed to serve as vice president and managing director for West Main Interactive, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brown-Forman in the digital and relationship marketing arena.

Griffin’s accomplishments led to his being named vice president and regional director for Brown-Forman’s Southern Europe operating unit that encompassed Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy and Greece. During his two years in this role, he led the successful turnaround of this business unit, significantly growing the region’s profitability.

With a promotion to senior vice president and global managing director for the company’s Southern Comfort brand in 2007, Griffin returned to Brown-Forman’s headquarters to lead a worldwide marketing team and ensure alignment between brand strategies and marketing practices. He transitioned to senior vice president and global managing director for the Jack Daniel’s brand franchise in 2008, leading all facets of building this brand worldwide over the following three years.

Griffin is a native of central Pennsylvania and was educated at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va., where he received a bachelor of arts degree in economics in 1982 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1987. He is a past board member of Hartmann Luggage, a former subsidiary of Brown-Forman.    

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