Patrick Ricard, 67; made spirits firm a global giant

PATRICK RICARD –AFP/GettyImages/file 1979

NEW YORK — Eighty years ago, in a small shop in Marseille, Patrick Ricard’s father concocted an anise-flavored aperitif that became a French favorite and the foundation of one the world’s major distributors of wine and spirits.

The drink, devised in 1932, was a nondistilled mix of licorice and anise that its creator, Paul Picard, bottled under his name as Ricard pastis. It became a daily tipple for millions of French, particularly working-class people in the south.

“It’s difficult to spend five minutes in a French cafe without hearing at least three people order pastis,’’ The New York Times reported in 1981.


Its success was the spur for Patrick Ricard to transform his father’s small business into Pernod Ricard, a conglomerate associated with Chivas Regal, Jameson, and Absolut.

Mr. Ricard, who led Pernod Ricard for nearly four decades, died Aug. 17 at 67 on a family-owned island, Bendor, in southern France. The company announced his death but did not give a cause. French news reports said he had a heart attack.

Mr. Ricard was managing director of the Ricard company when it merged with its longtime competitor, Pernod, in 1975. He was chief executive and chairman of Pernod Ricard until four years ago, when he resigned as chief executive but stayed on as chairman.

The company he inherited had made the Ricard label a market leader in France, using slogans like ‘‘Un Ricard sinon rien’’ (“A Ricard or nothing’’) on ubiquitous yellow-and-blue signs, table mats, drinking glasses, and ashtrays.

But Mr. Ricard saw opportunities for expansion all over the world. In 1981 the company acquired Austin, Nichols & Co., an American distributor. In 2001 it purchased assets of Seagram Co., including Chivas Regal, Martell Cognac, and Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin, as well as Seagram’s whisky manufacturing and bottling plants in Scotland. In 2005, it bought Allied Domecq, based in Bristol, England, acquiring brands like Ballantine’s Scotch, Beefeater Gin, and Kahlua liqueur.


In 2008, before he stepped down as chief executive, the company bought Vin & SpritAB, owner of Absolut vodka.

Today, 90 percent of the company’s sales are outside France, up from 17 percent during the Pernod Ricard merger.

In 2006, Fortune magazine named Mr. Ricard European businessman of the year.

Loading Comments...

Download our app