Sidney Frank

grey goose

jagermeister

Sidney Frank (1919 – 2006) was an American businessman who became a billionaire through his promotion of Grey Goose vodka and Jägermeister. He attended Brown University, but left because he could only afford one year of tuition. He later made enormous gifts to the university to ensure that no student would ever be forced to leave Brown because of inability to pay tuition. During World War II, Frank worked for Pratt and Whitney as an aircraft engine mechanic in the South Pacific.

Frank’s first wife, Louise Rosenstiel, was the daughter of Lewis Rosenstiel, founder of Schenley Industries, one of the largest American distiller and spirit importers. Frank joined Schenley after his marriage and rose to the company presidency, but was forced out in a family dispute in 1970. In 1973 his wife died and he started his own company, Sidney Frank Importing Company, where he served as chairman and chief executive officer. The company is based in New Rochelle, New York where Frank lived part of the year (he had a home in Rancho Santa Fe, California as well).

Frank’s first big success with his own company was with Jacques Cardin brandy, a brand he purchased from Seagram in 1979. In the 1980s, he obtained importing rights to Jägermeister and promoted it heavily, advertising it as the best drink in the world, turning a specialty brand into a mainstream success. In 1997, he introduced Grey Goose vodka, made in France, and was so successful in promoting it that he sold the brand to Bacardi for $2 billion in 2004.

Frank gave large bonuses to his employees and made both a $12 million donation to The Norwich Free Academy and a $120 million donation to Brown University in 2005. That year he also donated £500,000 and a statue by sculptor Stephen Kettle to Bletchley Park Trust in England to fund a new Science Center dedicated to Alan Turing, and, as a great supporter of RJ Mitchell’s Spitfire, commissioned a life size statue of Mitchell as well. His foundation has also been one of the biggest supporters of the Israel Olympic Committee and has helped to pay for improvements in several Israeli sports.

Cathy Frank figured prominently in a highly publicized case regarding her grandfather’s will that led to the disbarment of the controversial lawyer Roy Cohn. In 1975, Cohn entered the hospital room of a dying and comatose Rosenstiel, forced a pen to his hand and lifted it to the will in an attempt to make himself and Cathy Frank beneficiaries. The resulting marks were determined in court to be indecipherable and in no way a valid signature. In 1986 Cohn was disbarred for unethical and unprofessional conduct in the case, as well as misappropriation of clients’ funds and lying on a bar application. Sidney Frank, and his son Matthew Frank, also sued the Rosenstiel estate, each in a separate action.

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