Owsley Brown, II
Owsley Brown, II was born in September 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, he was the son of William Lee Lyons Brown and Sara "Sally" Shallenberger Brown. He was a graduate of Woodberry Forest Prep School in Woodberry Forest, Virginia. He earned his Bachelor’s in Arts Degree at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut in 1964 and his Masters in Science Degree from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business in Stanford, California. He married Christina (Christy) Lee Brown of Maryland and had three children Owsley Brown, III, Brooke Brown Barzun and Augusta Brown Holland.
Owsley is the great-grandson of Brown-Forman Corporation founder George Garvin Brown, Owsley spent 37 years of his professional life with the company, starting as a summer intern employee in 1960. He became President in 1983, and either Chief Executive Officer or Chairman of the Board from 1993 until 2009. Brown-Forman’s company's stock value more than quintupled and consistently outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index, a broad measure of U.S. stocks. While at the helm of the company, he led successful efforts to dramatically expand its international presence and significantly modernized its marketing efforts.
The strategy worked exceptionally well, as brands such as Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort, Finlandia Vodka and Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum all became internationally recognized names, producing stellar financial returns for the company. During his tenure the corporation introduced Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey and Glen Moray Speyside.
At Brown-Forman, Owsley acquired the key brands including Finlandia Vodka, Korbel Champagne, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Fontana Italian Wines, Fetzer Vineyards, Brolio Wines, Italy’s Chianti producer and the oldest winery in the world, Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt Scotch, Jekel Vineyards, Carmen Vineyards Chilean Wines, Jagatjit Industries, Limited of India, Mariah Wines of California, two Australian brands, McPherson Wines and Owen’s Estate Wines. While Owsley broadened the company's spirits portfolio, his favorite drink was traditional: The company's founding brand of, Old Forester Bourbon with ice and a little water in a tall glass.
Brown also purchased diversified companies like Lenox China, Incorporated, 125-year-old Hartmann Luggage Company, Crouch & Fitzgerald, the oldest luggage store in the US, Baltimore-based Kirk Stieff Company, the oldest manufacturer of silver and pewter products in the United States, who craft’s the Preakness’ Woodlawn Vase.
In his youth he served as a U. S. Army Intelligence officer at the Pentagon from 1966-1968 and in 2010 was appointed by the President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. Department of Defense Business Board. In addition to his service on the Brown-Forman board, Owsley served on the board of The North American Coal Corporation Operators Industries, Inc.
Owsley was a leader not only at Brown-Forman but throughout his community as a Philanthropist. In 2010 his Owsley Brown Charitable Foundation gave $1,769,837 to a variety of churches and community groups, including more than $100,000 donation to the Center for Interfaith Relations. In even number years of both 2006 and 2008, tax records show the foundation's giving totaled $2.2 million. He founded the Actors Theatre of Louisville, he served on the boards of the Speed Art Museum, served as Chairman and President of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts; the Partnership for Creative Economies, River Fields, the Advisory Council of the Yale University, the Environment and the National Council, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the International Council of Trustees for the World Conference of Religions for Peace and director of the Louisville Gas and Electric Company and its successor LG&E.
He received the Governor's Milner Award, Kentucky's highest award for contributions to the culture of his state, and in 2010 received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship. Also in 2011 he received the Greater Louisville's Gold Cup Award for distinguished service to Louisville. He earned the J. Russell Groves Citizens Laureate Award, honoring individuals who consistently encourage quality architecture in their states.
Owsley Brown, II passed away in Louisville, Kentucky in September 2011. Owsley Brown was inducted posthumously into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2015. Brown became only the 5th of 7 Brown-Forman Corporation employees to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame behind only his great-grandfather George Garvin Brown, his grandfather Owsley Brown, I, Jack Beam and Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson.