Comment - Wehring's Way: Patrick Ricard - How to Live a Life
We tend not to write obituaries, nor pass comment on people passing away here on just-drinks. That's not on principle, I hasten to add: It's more because of time constraints than anything else.
For Patrick Ricard, however, we make an exception. Because, the impact Patrick had on the global spirits landscape was nothing short of exceptional.
That said, I'll leave it to others to highlight the growth of Pernod Ricard that Patrick oversaw. Suffice to say, when the CEO of arch-rival Diageo is moved to issue a statement on Patrick's death, you know he played a powerful role.
For me, I'm sad to have to say goodbye to someone who I actively looked out for whenever I was invited to a Pernod event. The first time I met him was in Cognac in early-2004, about six months after I'd started at just-drinks. The over-eager, naïve cub reporter in me didn't really think of the appropriateness of asking fellow-smoker Patrick (we both gave up since then) for a spare cigarette. He didn't blink or break his conversation as he proffered his pack to this cheeky English scamp.
I was lucky enough to interview him twice in his time as CEO, once in Paris the other time in Moscow.
During the first interview, in his imposing office, I plucked up the courage to ask him about the long-running (and ongoing) row between Pernod and Bacardi over the Havana Club trademark. I'd never seen a CEO react with such passion – so much so that the recording of the interview features the sound of my dictaphone bouncing as he pounded the desk with his fists.
Then, in 2008 in Moscow, Patrick was happy to sit down with me in a hotel lobby after I pleaded for some 'exec time' after dodgy translators deemed the previous company presentation as useless to me.
The last time I saw him was earlier this year up at The Glenlivet distillery in Scotland. He, like the rest of us, got into the spirit of the evening, wearing his kilt with some aplomb.
The occasion that sticks most in my memory, however, was in February last year, when I was in Paris with Pernod to cover the company's half-year results. Patrick stepped into the lift as I headed upstairs to meet CEO Pierre Pringuet. Having not seen him since he stepped down from the position in November 2008, I asked him if he was enjoying his retirement. “I haven't had time to enjoy it yet,” he replied, smiling and with a glint in his eye.
That he has passed away at 67, and that he was still chairman of Pernod Ricard, suggests that Patrick never got the chance to savour much of his retirement.
But, he certainly enjoyed what he did. And he did it well.
Although it is being trumpeted as the next big thing, gin has not bounced back as much as spirits companies claim. Chris Mercer looks at the figures and asks, when does the revival kick in?...
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