2007 saw the passing of several iconic American businesspeople. Among those we'll miss are --
Bob Evans, the Sausage King. I met Bob several times in the years after he was eased out of the administration of the chain that bears his name. He was an amiable, unpretentious man, as down-home as the products and restaurants he created. While the company has struggled to find profitable avenues of growth, Bob seemed to have had this life thing licked on his farm in southern Ohio. I hope he's enjoying a good breakfast on the other side.
Ernest Gallo and his brother Julio were virtually synonymous with California table wine for decades before the area became recognized for world-class cabs, merlots and chardonnays. As the higher-price-point market grew, the two accomplished something remarkable, elevating the brand by offering bottlings competitive with the boutique wineries. At his death, Ernest had achieved a place among Forbes' 400 richest Americans. I propose a toast to an American wine legend.
Liz Claiborne was as much a legend in the fashion industry as Gallo in wine, best known for bringing fashion to the wardrobe of working women. Her company was perfectly positioned to provide modestly priced but good quality clothing to the rapidly growing population of professional women entering the workforce in the 1980s and since. Although she was known for her love of red, she compiled a huge pile of green, which she spent her last years using for charitable purposes.
The least known person on our list, J. Robert Cade, invented a product most of us have probably used: Gatorade. The sports drink, meant to help athletes replace electrolytes lost through sweat during competitions, has been a staple on the sidelines of football, basketball and other sports games, and has been dumped over the head of countless victorious coaches. Now owned by PepsiCo, Cade's drink spawned an entire industry of health drinks.
This post was written as part of a series on on 2007 departures. Read about more products, companies and people you won't see in 2007.