Tag: Sandra Frazier

Documents reveal a legal latticework shielding the Brown family’s $6 billion whiskey fortune

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

When Brown-Forman stockholders gathered in July at the whiskey giant’s Georgian Revival headquarters west of downtown, the outcome of a crucial vote — re-electing 12 directors to the governing board — was anything but a surprise.

This has been the founding Brown family’s company for nearly 150 years. Six of the directors were Browns, including board Chairman George Garvin Brown IV — a great-great grandson of the founder — and the rest were unquestionably family loyalists.

Stockholders outside the family knew what Brown-Forman has disclosed for years in an annual statement soliciting their votes: 13 individual Browns and family groups hold 67% of all the voting shares in “a variety of family trusts and entities, with multiple family members often sharing voting control and investment power.”

Much less has been known about the scope of those entities, leaving more than 5,600 other stockholders in the dark about exactly how the Browns divvy up nearly $6 billion in shares among a core group of relatives.

George Garvin Brown
Founder Brown.

But now, documents filed by the Browns with the Securities and Exchange Commission detail how complex their ownership has grown since the pharmaceuticals salesman George Garvin Brown founded the company in 1870. They shed light on how the Browns have deployed extensive trust accounts, business partnerships, and other legal vehicles to pass down Brown-Forman stock through six generations. That’s an exceptional legacy in American business: Just 12% of family-owned companies survive into the third generation, and a slim 3% survive to the fourth and beyond.

The documents also point to a network of boutique consulting firms and other white-shoe professionals advising the city’s wealthiest families on everything from investments to taxes and charitable giving, hiring housekeepers and gardeners — even organizing vacation travel and family gatherings. Paid tens of thousands of dollars a year in fees, the firms are the backbone of a larger, multibillion-dollar economy serving the area’s uber-rich.

george-garvin-brown-to-laura-frazier-contact-sheet-450
Clockwise from top left: Garvin Brown IV, Campbell Brown, Christy Brown, Laura Frazier, Sandra Frazier and Mac Brown.

The documents were filed over the past 18 months by Continue reading “Documents reveal a legal latticework shielding the Brown family’s $6 billion whiskey fortune”

Aetna CEO slams U.S. senators for ‘unfounded’ accusations; UofL Foundation paying $12K a month for PR advice

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:46 a.m.

Mark Bertolini
Bertolini

HUMANA: Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says that “marketplace reality” is pushing the company to exit nearly 70% of the counties with public health exchanges next year, and dismissed criticism of the insurer by a group of U.S. senators as “unfounded accusations.” Bertolini was responding to a letter from Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. The lawmakers said Aetna’s decision to quit numerous health exchanges “appears to be an effort to pressure the Justice Department into approving” its proposed $37 billion purchase of Humana (Hartford Courant).

taco-bell-dress
Mears, dressing for success.

TACO BELL: Designer and artist Olivia Mears has used Taco Bell wrappers, painted card stock, tissue paper, and felt to make her own spin on Belle’s dress from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” She tells Thrillist: “I had already sewn the yellow ballgown without tacos several years earlier for children’s parties and it was during this time that someone snapped a photo of me while at Taco Bell and it ended up going viral. Fast-forward about three years and I landed a role in a Taco Bell commercial wearing another dress I made from wrappers, so I decided to bring the Belle dress out from storage and continue the legacy.” The dress, unfortunately for fans, isn’t available for sale. But Mears is selling signed photos of it on her AvantGeek Etsy page (Thrillist).

In other news: Facing growing scrutiny from donors and its own university, the University of Louisville Foundation is paying $11,500 a month in retainers for external public relations advice from two Louisville PR shops: RunSwitch Public Relations, led by political strategist Scott Jennings, and Tandem Public Relations, led by Sandra Frazier, according to WFPL; both contracts were extended as of Sept. 1. Frazier, a recently retired Brown-Forman director, was one of Gov. Matt Bevin‘s appointees to a newly reorganized UofL board of trustees (WFPL).

Follow the money: A trail of footnotes and government documents leads to Insider Louisville’s front door

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

In business journalism, some of the most interesting news shows up in fine-print footnotes in documents companies file with government agencies. Hospital and nursing giant Kindred Healthcare is great example. Last spring in a statement to stockholders, it disclosed two special payments to top executives: $6 million to then-executive vice chairman Paul Diaz in connection with his leaving the CEO’s job, and $250,000 to Chief Financial Officer Steven Farberto help him escape a high-profile dispute with a Glenview neighbor. But to uncover that, you had to follow three different footnotes on a table showing how much they got paid overall.

Insider Louisville logoThis leads me to another footnote, of sorts — one that appeared on a story today at Insider Louisville, the online news site launched in 2010, and to a document I’ve run across at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Together, they open a window on who’s investing in Louisville’s news media at a time when the once-dominant Courier-Journal has been losing influence amid steep staff cutbacks, shifting the balance of power in Kentucky’s biggest city. They underscore the importance of news outlets everywhere telling readers who’s behind the scenes, and about any conflicts of interest owners may pose for their publication. (I’ve got disclosures of my own.)

This morning, at the bottom of a long story about the Humana Foundation, Insider Louisville editors added this disclosure: “One of the five directors of the Humana Foundation is David A. Jones Jr., an investor of Insider Louisville.”

David A. Jones Jr.
Jones

Jones is one of Louisville’s more influential residents. He’s on the board of directors of Humana itself, and his father, David A. Jones Sr., is a co-founder of the insurance giant. Jones Jr. is a partner at Chrysalis Ventures, the Louisville venture-capital firm he founded in 1993, and he’s chairman of the elected seven-person board overseeing the Jefferson County Public Schools. (Here’s Chrysalis’s portfolio of company investments; it doesn’t show Insider Louisville, which suggests this was a personal investment.)

Tom Cottingham
Cottingham

To be sure, close readers of Insider Louisville have known Jones was an investor for several years. In August 2014, owner Tom Cottingham told readers he’d brought in three new minority investors he knew from a prior venture: Jones; Doug Cobb, the former Greater Louisville Inc. CEO, and Jon Pyles, now the site’s vice president of marketing. The story — which carried only a “staff” byline — didn’t say how much they’d invested, nor the exact size of their stake. Cottingham said he remained the majority holder.

Douglas Cobb
Cobb

Now, though, an SEC document filed in April offers more clues about the publication’s investors, whom we learned this summer include a prominent heiress to the glittering Brown-Forman whiskey fortune. I can’t find any mention of the regulatory filing on Insider Louisville’s website, nor in any other media outlet in Louisville. My readers may well correct me after I publish this post; in any case, this is certainly the first time I’m writing about it.

The April 12 document shows that Insider Louisville LLC raised $975,000 from 12 investors in a $1.5 million stock offering that drew the first investment March 31. It didn’t identify the investors by name, however, and it didn’t say how big their stakes were. The first $450,000 was to pay down an undisclosed amount of debt, according to the document; anything left over would go to any of its directors: Jones, Cottingham, and a third named Jamie Wilson. (Who’s Wilson? I haven’t figured that out; maybe one of my readers knows.)

Minimum investment: $25K

Continue reading “Follow the money: A trail of footnotes and government documents leads to Insider Louisville’s front door”

Changing of the family guard: At Brown-Forman’s annual meeting, the ordinary was actually extraordinary

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

George Garvin Brown IV, a great-great grandson of the young pharmaceuticals salesman who started Brown-Forman in 1870, stepped onto a dais at the whiskey giant’s annual stockholders meeting today, and told an amusing story about a subject that might otherwise have been deadly dull: brand loyalty.

Garvin Brown IV
Garvin Brown

It was 9:30 a.m., and several hundred stockholders had assembled in a conference room at the white-collanaded headquarters on Dixie Highway west of downtown. On a classically muggy Louisville summer morning, this was a dressy crowd. Many of the men wore dark suits, crisp white shirts, and boarding school repp ties. Women wore tailored dresses, or smart skirts paired with jackets, and an occasional pearl necklace. People were tan and slim and — in the case of the many Browns there — very, very rich.

This was a business event, but it felt as much like a family reunion, too — because, after all, a core group of Browns control the company through an equity stake worth well north of $6 billion. Garvin Brown, who is 47 and lives mostly in London, was running the meeting as chairman of the board. Seated nearby in Chippendale-style chairs facing the audience were the other 11 directors up for re-election.

This is the story Brown told. He was on a flight from London to Warsaw for a meeting with the Brown-Forman team responsible for the company’s growing business in Poland. Brown had lucked out, scoring one of his favorite seats — aisle, in a roomy exit row — with two empty ones between him and the window. Then a British man, one of the many harried road warriors aboard, arrived to take the window seat. He asked for a Jack Daniel’s, Brown-Forman’s most profitable brand, when the flight attendant rolled the snack cart down the aisle. Here, Brown’s ears perked up.

Jack Daniel's bottleBut the airline was all out. Would the Brit settle for another brand of whiskey, the attendant asked, perhaps a Johnnie Walker? Nope, he replied, and asked for a glass of champagne instead. As Brown pointed out to the audience, here was a man so loyal to Jack Daniel’s, he’d sooner drink airline champagne than just any other whiskey.

That’s how Brown eased the stockholders into a more formal presentation by CEO Paul Varga, who deployed many bar charts and fever graphs showing return on shareholder equity over one year, five years, and 20 years — important stuff, to be sure, but not quite as compelling as Brown’s literally on-the-fly market research.

By this point, Brown had already dispatched Continue reading “Changing of the family guard: At Brown-Forman’s annual meeting, the ordinary was actually extraordinary”

Monty 1978-2016 | ‘He never bit anyone in his 35 years here at the zoo, which is rare!’

Louisville Zoo officials were forced to euthanize Monty, a popular 38-year-old male Burmese python after he was recently diagnosed with cancer.

The giant snake hadn’t been eating well and was losing weight after developing lymphoma, an immune system cancer, according to a zoo statement. The veterinary and HerpAquarium teams decided the most humane course was to euthanize the python on Tuesday.

In death, he is now globally famous. News of his demise was reported as far away as Continue reading “Monty 1978-2016 | ‘He never bit anyone in his 35 years here at the zoo, which is rare!’”

Bevin appoints Brown-Forman, Glenview Trust, other big-money heavy-hitters to new UofL board; Schnatter and Frazier raise profiles

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 10:42 p.m.

Matt Bevin
Bevin

Tightening his grip on the University of Louisville, Gov. Matt Bevin today added 10 more members to his reconfigured board of trustees, appointing a slew of business heavy hitters, including at least one with long family ties to the board.

Among them: Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter; Glenview Trust Co. founder and chairman David Grissom, who’s also a retired Humana executive; and Brown-Forman heiress Sandra Frazier.

Schnatter is a major UofL booster, donating millions for naming rights to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. He and conservative industrialist Charles Koch donated $6.3 million to the school in March 2015 to establish an on-campus center to study the virtues of free enterprise; responding to criticism, the university said the money wouldn’t curtail academic freedom.

Sandra Frazier
Frazier

Frazier, who is now cycling off the Brown-Forman board of directors, also is a director of Glenview Trust, a boutique investment firm that serves more than 500 of the area’s wealthiest families. Her late father, Harry Frazier, is a former UofL vice chairman, and her uncle, the late Owsley Brown Frazier, was once chairman.

Two other Bevin appointees are private equity and venture capitalists, according to The Courier-Journal: Dale Boden, now a partner with Weller Equity; and Douglas Cobb, who co-founded Chrysalis Ventures with David A. Jones Jr., a Humana director. Jones’ father, David Sr., co-founded Humana and is also a Glenview Trust director. The 10-member Glenview board comprises some of Louisville’s  biggest power brokers.

Here’s Bevin’s order, with the full list of appointees and their terms.

Bevin’s announcement today follows his surprise June 17 dismissal of the previous 20-seat board, which he called “dysfunctional” in its oversight of the university and President James Ramsey. He replaced them with an interim three-member board, which he filled out with today’s appointments. The school has been roiled with controversy over Ramsey’s seven-figure compensation; a sex scandal involving the marquee men’s basketball program, plus other administrative missteps. Ramsey offered to resign when Bevin dissolved the board, but a final decision on his future was deferred to the next board.

In other news: Continue reading “Bevin appoints Brown-Forman, Glenview Trust, other big-money heavy-hitters to new UofL board; Schnatter and Frazier raise profiles”