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Southern Glazer’s chairman Harvey Chaplin dies

The founder and chairman of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Harvey Chaplin, has died at the age of 95.

Harvey Chaplin, chairman and founder of Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits
Harvey Chaplin was described as an “industry giant who propelled the spirits industry forward”

The biggest alcohol distributor in the US announced that Chaplin had died on 9 June 2024.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my beloved father, Harvey Chaplin, our company’s founder and chairman, and one of the icons of our industry,” said Wayne E Chaplin, CEO of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

“His influence as a leader, a philanthropist, a loving family man, and patriarch of our family has left an indelible mark on all who have known and worked with him. He was a larger-than-life figure and will be greatly missed by my family, and our entire Southern Glazer’s team.”

Chaplin was described as ‘paving the way’ for the three-tier system in the US, and a leader in the expansion and consolidation of the second tier ­— distribution.

He became chairman of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in July 2016, following the merger of US distributors Southern Wine and Glazer’s Distributing.

Chaplin originally joined Southern Wine in 1969, holding numerous senior executive roles over the next 24 years. In 1994, he became chairman and CEO of the company.

Privately owned Southern Glazer’s, which is currently run by Chaplin’s son, Wayne E Chaplin, operates in 45 US markets and Canada.

Bennett Glazer, executive vice-chairman of Southern Glazer’s, added: “Harvey and I shared a mutual dedication to family, commitment to our communities, and investing in people as the foundation of business success.

“I am proud to have had him as a colleague and a friend, and join our entire Southern Glazer’s team in mourning his loss. On behalf of the entire leadership team, I extend our sympathies to his family, who meant the world to him.”

‘Industry giant’

Dan Leese, Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) board chair and Hotaling & Co president and CEO, and Chris Swonger, Discus’ president and CEO, called Chaplin an “industry giant who propelled the spirits industry forward through innovation, adaptation and modernisation”.

“From his start in the mailroom at Schenley Industries to his role as chairman and CEO at Southern, Harvey spent his life building a better future for the alcohol industry that we now get to enjoy because of the great progress he achieved throughout his career,” said Leese and Swonger in a joint statement.

“We are deeply saddened by his passing and share the admiration of so many for his unquantifiable impact on the industry and the people who work within it. Harvey will always have a place in the long history of the spirits industry, and we are grateful for the leadership and expertise he so graciously shared with us.

“Our hearts are heavy and go out to his family and all those who knew and loved him. We toast to you, Harvey.”

Francis Creighton, president and CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), described Chaplin as a “self-made visionary leader of the industry”.

Chaplin served on the WSWA board of directors for more than two decades.

“Beyond his work on WSWA’s board, Mr Chaplin was an active member of the association, transformational to the role distributors play with suppliers and retailers and blazed a storied professional path, spanning more than seven decades,” Creighton continued.

“Harvey Chaplin’s legendary career has inspired so many and, with his passing, we celebrate his accomplishments as a wine and spirits wholesaler whose impact on WSWA members, and the larger wine and spirits industry, is monumental. The middle tier has lost a giant, and we are saddened by his loss.”

Chaplin is survived by his wife, Roberta, and three children he shares with his first wife Arlene, who died in 2000. He is also survived by nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

In other news, a legal complaint alleging that Southern Glazer’s and Republic National Distributing Company have ‘stifled competition’ will proceed in court.

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