The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2012

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Page 40 of 140

PORTRAIT OF AN INDUSTRY LEADER Man for All T wo decades ago, John Klein was working for Pepsi-Cola in New York. With a desire to work in the wine and spirits business, little did he know he would assume leadership roles at multiple wine and spirits suppliers and wholesalers—eventu- ally taking the helm of a regional division for the largest distributor in the country—Southern Wine & Spirits of America. That was then, and this is now. Working for Heublein from 1988 to 1994, Klein ran the West Coast before he began his management role at Young's Market in California. "I had been competing with Southern Wine & Spirits in one way or another over the past two decades," he tells THE TASTING PANEL. The Pacifi c Northwest was a successful region for his former employer, but after 14 years with the company, Klein made a career decision to move on and consider other options. Without a fi rm game plan in place, Klein thought he would be spending his next year at the beach. But shortly after his departure, his phone rang. "I saw a 305 area code pop up," he notes, "And I knew I had to take that call." On the other end of the country, in Miami, was the voice of Wayne Chaplin, President & Chief Operating Offi cer of Southern Wine & Spirits of America. "Wayne told me he wanted to talk about an opportunity." While Klein admits that Chapter One of his career prior to joining Southern was a memorable part of his working life, he is animated and excited about Chapter Two with Southern. "It's off to a great start; I greatly admire the leadership and the vision of this company." Upon taking over the leadership role in the Pacifi c Northwest for Southern, Klein has had to prioritize the SWS-Washington State division fi rst among his seven markets after Washington advanced earlier this 40 / the tasting panel / october 2012 JOHN KLEIN IS GROWING THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST FOR SOUTHERN WINE & SPIRITS Reaso photo by Joann Arruda year to become the fi rst state to transition from a con- trol to an open state market. Klein realized quickly that there is no wine and spirits industry manual to tell you how privatization is supposed to work with suppliers, brands, accounts and operations. But in his one year in place as EVP– General Manager for Southern Wine & Spirits of the Pacifi c Northwest—and with unwavering support from Southern Wine & Spirits of America's corporate leadership—Klein has impacted the market with stunning growth, bringing in new, exciting suppliers and waking up the company's wine business in the Pacifi c Northwest. He's on a roll: Starting with two selling divisions in Washington alone, he upped it to four, building his team from 250 people to almost 900. "That was a large crew to train and develop in short order!" Klein exclaimed. He also expanded his sales teams in Oregon, from two divisions to three. SWS of Washington's newly-acquired fi ne wine division, Cavatappi, is a well-oiled machine—with a stable of premium and luxury suppliers helping to make Southern a leading wine distributor in the state. The same surge holds true with SWS-Washington's spirits portfolio. "We continue to partner with all of our national trading partners," he smiles. Following in the footsteps of Jim Allen, who ran a smooth operation for Southern in the Pacifi c Northwest (Allen is now SVP of Fine Wine for Southern Wine & Spirits of America), Klein fi nds that the true leadership comes from the top. "Wayne Chaplin and Brad Vassar are truly vision- aries for this company," Klein comments. "If you are entrepreneurial and willing to put in the time and energy, the support from the senior leadership team is there to help you be a success."

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