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Ray Herrmann, Breakthru’s Chairman Emeritus, Turns 100 Years Old

September 11, 2020

Ray Herrmann turns 100 years old today. One of the legends of the wine and spirits industry with a career spanning more than half a century, Herrmann played a key role in the formation of the U.S. distribution landscape as it stands today, led by giants like Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Republic National Distributing Co., and Breakthru Beverage—a $5.5 billion behemoth of which he remains chairman emeritus.

“This is an incredible day in Ray’s life. What a milestone for this gentleman,” said Marvin R. Shanken, chairman of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.”We are all blessed to know him and honor his many decades of leadership in the American wine and spirits industry.”

Herrmann began his illustrious career as a liquor salesman in New York’s distribution tier after serving in the U.S. Army and seeing action in the Pacific theater during World War II. Working his way up the ranks, he eventually held leadership roles at companies like McKesson Corp., Schieffelin and Company and National Distillers Products Co. After becoming vice chairman at McKesson in 1984, Herrmann announced his retirement and became a consultant. But he didn’t stay away for long.

In 1988, he led an acquisition of McKesson’s spirits and wine operation and streamlined it into a four-state distribution company called Sunbelt Beverage Corp. By 1992, Sunbelt was a thriving business with $575 million in revenue, ranking as the fifth-largest wholesaler in the country.

Two years later Herrmann was at it again, striking a deal to join forces with fellow spirits and wine distributor Charmer Industries to form Charmer Sunbelt, and starting a long and successful partnership with the late Herman Merinoff. In 2015, Charmer Sunbelt merged with Wirtz Beverage to form Breakthru Beverage, today the third-largest spirits and wine wholesaler in the U.S.—Daniel Marsteller

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