Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
McDonnell told shocked staff this week that after 30 years in the industry he wanted a change. He said it is “time to slow down a bit, and maybe pursue something more entrepreneurial”.
To most industry observers the meteoric rise of Patrón and particularly its super premium Tequila, has been down to McDonnell’s vision and entrepreneurial verve.
McDonnell began at Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, where he worked in domestic and international sales and marketing. McDonnell did well at Seagram with his strategic use of marketing instead of cost-cutting to increase revenue, despite difficult times - as country manager for Taiwan, his leadership is said to have turned the business around in three years from a US$13 million loss to a $21 million profit.
He joined Patrón and was appointed chief operating officer in January, 2005. In 2013, he relocated to the company’s headquarters in Switzerland to take on the additional role of president of Patrón’s international operations, monitoring and managing the company’s day-to-day activities both in the US and abroad, reporting to the chief executive officer. He also helped close the company’s acquisition of ultra premium Ultimat vodka and has led the company’s international and duty-free expansion into more than 130 countries and islands worldwide.
McDonnell’s responsibilities include overseeing Patrón’s manufacturing, sales, and marketing, including online social media. He was also involved with the company’s leadership in environmental responsibility. Patrón claims to have installed the first reverse osmosis water treatment plant in the history of Tequila in Mexico, has become one of the largest consumers of recycled glass in that country, and has been certified for years with ISO 14001 for environmental performance in reducing waste, cleaning the air, and limiting noise.
In February 2012, McDonnell was elected chairman of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the national trade association representing America’s leading distillers. Also in 2012, he was named to the board of trustees at Suffolk University in Boston. McDonnell is also co-owner of an entrepreneurial venture, now in its second decade: The Action Group USA, a beverage sales and marketing consulting firm.
On behalf of Patrón, McDonnell has been a supporter of numerous philanthropic and charitable organisations. The company works to make a difference on issues ranging from children’s health, to hunger and clean water, to the rebuilding of New Orleans. In addition, he contributes to civic and educational causes in his native Boston.