Bill Coors Dies at 102

The beer industry has lost a legend.

Molson Coors Brewing Company announced that William (“Bill”) K. Coors, former chairman of the board of Adolph Coors Company, died peacefully at his home at age 102.

Coors was born Aug. 11, 1916, the grandson of Company founder Adolph Coors. He started his career at the company in 1939.

During his more than 65 years with the company, he contributed heavily to the company’s rise from a regional brewer, distributing in only a few western states, to one of the world’s largest breweries. Under his watch, Coors survived and prospered while hundreds of breweries went out of business. “The fact that we survived and even grew over the years when so many breweries went out of business was an accomplishment that all Coors employees can be proud of,” he would say.

In 1959, at the start of his tenure as chairman, Coors revolutionized the beverage industry with the creation and development of the aluminum can. He faced significant resistance from companies unwilling to change and even from the aluminum industry itself, but he stuck with his idea and changed an entire industry.

“Our company stands on the shoulders of giants like Bill Coors. His dedication, hard work and ingenuity, helped shape not only our company but the entire beer industry,” says Mark Hunter, president and CEO of Molson Coors. “We honor his memory by rededicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much – brewing the best tasting, highest quality beer to share with family and friends. Cheers to you Uncle Bill!”

Coors also was a pioneer in the world of corporate wellness. Through his foresight and leadership, the company started one of the first employee wellness centers in the country and it still exists today.

“Bill Coors was a great American who revolutionized the beer industry and recognized the importance of collaboration,” says National Beer Wholesalers Association President & CEO Craig Purser. “He was an innovator and visionary whose support of America’s beer distributors and the system of alcohol regulation earned him generations of fans, including his competitors. On behalf of the beer distribution industry, we offer our prayers to the Coors family. Bill’s many contributions to the beer industry will live on for years to come. ”

Coors attended primary school in Golden, Colo., and spent four years at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., before entering Princeton University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1938 and a graduate degree in 1939.

Coors was involved with numerous civic, educational and business organizations over the years, including: Boys and Girls Club of Denver Foundation, board of trustees; Colorado Symphony Orchestra, board of trustees; Colorado Outward Bound School, founding/lifetime trustee; Colorado Health Care Purchasing Alliance, board member; Colorado Business Coalition for Health, board chairman; Colorado School of Mines Foundation, board member; Denver University, board of trustees, and Colorado University President’s Leadership Class, lifetime trustee.

Coors’ efforts and strong commitment to improving the quality of life around him earned him numerous awards, including Citizen of the West in 1992; the Patriots Award presented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society; the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life Award and the Daniel Ritchie Award.

Coors is survived by his children Margaret Coors Beresford and her husband Michael, May Louise Coors and her husband Sharad Atre and Williams Scott Coors and his partner David Hurt, 7 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, and a great number of nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. He is pre-deceased by his parents Adolph and May Coors Jr., his brothers Adolph Coors III, Joseph Coors, Sr., and his sister May Louise Tooker.

Coors spent over 70 years driving change and shaping the path of the Coors Brewery through his passion for innovation. The development of the recyclable aluminum can for beer is perhaps his most well-known accomplishments.

The idea of an aluminum can captured his interest for two reasons, the company says: aluminum cans could be recycled, and they didn’t have a welded seam making them easy to sterilize. This gave new life to his idea of sterile filling and refrigerated marketing for beer. Together, with Coors Porcelain Company, a task force was created to make the dream a reality and in 1959, Coors introduced the first recyclable, sterile filled can on the market and revolutionized the entire beverage industry.

Coors often said of that time: “Would the aluminum can have ever arrived without me? Of course, its advent was inevitable. All I did was hurry it along.” The release of the can in turn led to one of the most successful recycling programs in the country – Cash for Cans. Coors received many awards for these accomplishments; among them was the Modern Metals Man of the Year for the pioneering of the aluminum can in 1959 and the Alcoa Man of the Year for Aluminum Can Recycling in 1975.

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