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Breakthru Beverage founder Rocky Wirtz dies

Rocky Wirtz, co-chairman and founder of US distributor Breakthru Beverage Group and owner of ice hockey team Chicago Blackhawks, has died at the age of 70.

Wirtz was former chairman of the WSWA

Wirtz died yesterday (25 July) at NorthShore Evanston Hospital in Illinois following a ‘brief illness’, according to a statement.

He was the principal founder of Breakthru Beverage Group, North America’s third-largest wholesale alcohol company.

Breakhtru Beverage Group president and CEO Tom Bené said: “Rocky was an inspiring leader and mentor to me from the moment I arrived at Breakthru.

“Throughout our time together, I sought his advice often and was always amazed at his insights and acumen. Even more importantly, I marvelled at the respect he always showed everyone he came in contact with – he was a decent, values-driven and family-led man as well as a titan of industry. I am honoured to have known him and am a better leader and person for it.”

Breakthru was formed in October 2015 following the merger of family-owned firms Wirtz Beverage Group and Charmer Sunbelt Group.

Wirtz was also a former chairman of trade body the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA).

The statement also said Wirtz ‘leaves behind a vast legacy of generosity and philanthropy’.

His charitable endeavours include supporting Chicago Blackhawks Foundation, which donates annually to organisations focusing on youth programmes, health and wellness, education and housing.

Wirtz also established the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Endowment for Visiting Artists at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Charlie Merinoff said: “Rocky was much more than a colleague, he was a valued and cherished friend.

“He had the remarkable ability to light up a room with his smile, his laugh and his wit. Whether as competitors or partners, I always had the utmost respect for Rocky and admired the grace and integrity in which he conducted himself.

“His loss will be felt throughout our business and I will miss my friend dearly.”

Last year, the group named Chad Stone as vice-president, business transformation and new frontiers.

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