Patrick Ricard: a generation passes

on 20 August, 2012

I think anyone who met Patrick Ricard will be saddened by the news that he has passed away. I can't speak about what he was like to work with but I met him several times and I liked him.  

A great many of today's chairmen, CEOs are so media trained that they will think twice about giving you the time of day. One wrong comment, one ill advised aside and the share price wobbles and a few million is wiped off the pension fund.  Not Patrick Ricard.  He was more old school, in a nice way.

During his tenure, Pernod Ricard went from being a Franco-centric essentially pastis company, to a true global player with world class drinks brands and a significant investor and participant in the scotch and Irish whisk(e)y sectors.

My abiding memory of him was on a trip to Cognac, not long after the burgeoning company had acquired the Martell brand from the carve up of Canadian drinks giant, Seagram.  Being 'old school', Ricard was not afraid to say what he thought. It was his family's company so he felt entitled to speak his mind. I recall him berating French journalists about the fact that the French did not drink more Cognac.  The hacks looked rightly bemused with "Why me" writ large on their faces.  The rest of us smirked like naughty schhol boys and girls.

He appeared totally relaxed and had a keen sense of humour. Fortunately, while Pernod Ricard is now a huge multi-national company populated by more modern managers, the company has retained the bonhomie which I like to think came from the top.

Next in line is nephew Alex Ricard who is currently doing his time as global head of distribution. I first met him when he was heading up Irish Distillers. He seemed genuinely enthused by Irish whiskey and the division has gone from strength to strength on the back of Jameson's success.  Last time I saw him was in a bar in Brooklyn, the evening Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve was launched in New York. I was trying to find out the ABV and recommended retail price.  Alex was able to reel off the information there and then.  He certainly seems to be a chip off the old block, albeit finessed by an education in American business management.

So I raise a metaphorical Ricard to the great man. His passing will be mourned by many. 

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