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Brown-Forman Corporation Mourns Passing of W.L. Lyons Brown Jr., Former Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Brown-Forman Corporation mourns the loss of W.L. Lyons Brown Jr., retired chair of the board and chief executive officer, who passed away on June 9. Brown, a fourth-generation Brown family member, was the great-grandson of the Company’s founder, George Garvin Brown.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

W.L. Lyons "Lee" Brown Jr. (Photo: Business Wire)

W.L. Lyons "Lee" Brown Jr. (Photo: Business Wire)

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our esteemed former leader Lee Brown. His visionary leadership and commitment to our international expansion and long-term growth helped shape Brown-Forman into the global company it is today. His legacy will long be remembered and celebrated,” said Brown-Forman Chief Executive Officer and President Lawson Whiting.

Brown began his career at Brown-Forman in 1960 as a sales representative in its international division. During more than three decades at the company, he led Brown-Forman through a period of diversification and was instrumental in launching the company’s export division. Brown steered the company from annual sales of $365 million to $1.7 billion.

He became executive vice president and director of worldwide marketing in 1972 and, three years later, was elected CEO and president. In 1983, Brown became chair of the Board of Directors and CEO. He completed his tenure as chair in 1995 and as a member of the board in 1996.

Brown was also known for his deep knowledge and passion for global trade, serving as an international trade advisor to several U.S. Presidents. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, reappointed by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, serving from 1987 to 1994. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Brown as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria.

“Lee was a giant in the spirits industry and a champion for the family business. For many of us in the Brown family's fifth generation, he was the first company leader that many of us knew,” said Campbell Brown, chair, Brown-Forman Board of Directors. “He was a person of remarkable vision and unparalleled dedication and we are grateful for his leadership. His accomplishments beyond the company remind all of us that the ideas of service and responsibility live far beyond what we leave behind as employees and shareholders of Brown-Forman.”

A Kentucky native, Brown graduated from the University of Virginia and received a B.S. from the American Graduate School of International Management, now known as the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Alice Cary Farmer, his sister, Ina Bond, his three children, Lyons III (Susanna), their three children, Renee Carpenter (Douglas), Caroline Fries (Willis) and George; Cary Epstein (Steve), their son Sam; Stuart (Joanna), their four children Stuart Jr., Keeling (Holly), Clara, and Lyons and two great-grandsons, Read Lyons Fries and Cato Douglas Glover Carpenter III.

W.L. Lyons “Lee” Brown Jr. Brown-Forman Timeline

1975 W.L. Lyons Brown Jr. named CEO and president

1983 W.L. Lyons Brown Jr. is elected chair of the Board of Directors

1993 W.L. Lyons Brown Jr. steps down as CEO and president

1995 Completed tenure as chair of the Board of Directors

1996 Completed tenure on Board of Directors

About Brown-Forman

For more than 150 years, Brown-Forman Corporation has enriched the experience of life by responsibly building fine quality beverage alcohol brands, including Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Ready-to-Drinks, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Apple, Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Coopers’ Craft, The GlenDronach, Benriach, Glenglassaugh, Slane, Herradura, el Jimador, New Mix, Korbel, Chambord, Fords Gin, Gin Mare, and Diplomático Rum. Brown-Forman’s brands are supported by approximately 5,700 employees globally and sold in more than 170 countries worldwide. For more information about the company, please visit Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and X, formerly Twitter.


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