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Interview, Part 2: Wayne Chaplin, CEO, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

July 18, 2017

In the second part of our interview, Southern Glazer’s CEO Wayne Chaplin discusses the wholesale giant’s view on the franchise state business, potential expansion in beer, and how the next generations of Chaplins and Glazers are contributing to the company.

SND: Some time ago, Southern seemed to decide not to focus on franchise states in terms of its expansion. Is that a correct read?

Chaplin: Legacy Southern had two franchise markets, Nevada and New Mexico, where we’ve been for many years. Nevada, in fact, was the third state we entered, back in 1972. Legacy Glazer’s had operations in Kansas, Arkansas, and more recently, Tennessee. It’s not that we haven’t been focused on the franchise markets. It’s just that distributors in those markets haven’t perhaps felt the same urgency, or force of consolidation, as distributors in open markets. What’s interesting is that five of the six markets where we aren’t present are franchise markets. Rest assured that they’re on our radar screen.

SND: There’s still a lot of fragmentation in wine. How are you balancing the needs of bigger and smaller suppliers?

Chaplin: We’ve stepped up our investment in wine, adding new fine wine companies in Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Colorado and Florida. Those were in addition to the units we had in California, Nevada, New York, Minnesota, Texas, Louisiana and Arizona. We’ve added about 70 new people to the more than 600 fine wine team members we already had. Wine will be a growth engine for many, many years to come. It’s about having the right route to market for different wines and then having the right sales force and level of education and training.

SND: What areas outside wine and spirits are attractive to you?

Chaplin: For many years, we’ve been focused on imported mineral water in the on-premise. It’s a complement for our on-premise sales teams. We’re also focused on craft and imported beer in a number of markets. We’ll continue to seek opportunity and grow our footprint in beer. When our two companies came together, legacy Glazer’s spun off its business into Glazer’s Beer and Beverage. But Southern Glazer’s is still seriously focused on beer in Ohio, Nevada, South Carolina, Hawaii and California. We’re always looking for opportunities in beer, because we see it as a larger part of our future.

SND: Might that include acquiring beer distributorships?

Chaplin: Yes.

SND: Do you predict more distributor consolidation, and do you plan to participate?

Chaplin: We’re looking to fill out the entire U.S. coverage in the six states where we’re not present. With our footprint now in place, we can use it to stay ahead of the competition.

SND: At some point, will it make sense for you to go public?

Chaplin: I don’t see public markets being part of our future. What brought the two companies together was a vision and culture of building a multi-generational company, one that will be family-owned and family-led for many years to come.

SND: What does the next generation look like?

Chaplin: I have a niece and nephew who’ve been with us for a number of years. My niece is in strategy, and my nephew is now running a sales team in south Florida. My oldest son is part of our supplier management team. He’s been doing that for the last couple of years and is really carving his way into the organization. My daughter recently joined us in Florida after working in New York for several years, as part of our communications team. (Southern Glazer’s executive vice chairman) Bennett Glazer’s son and my youngest son are both working on their MBAs, and we hope they’ll join us as well. We ask all future generation family members to get a secondary degree and then get some outside work experience before joining the organization. We’re also very focused on recruiting and cultivating a new generation of (non-family) leaders. We’re as competitive as anyone in terms of recruiting new talent. We have an emerging leaders program that allows us to identify and promote talented leaders from within. We’re very focused on creating the company’s next generation of leadership.

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