Posted: January 01, 2012
Colorado Business Hall of Fame: Pete Coors
Scion of Colorado brewing giant had a humble start with namesake companyBy Lisa Ryckman
Peter Coors describes his first job in the family business as the bottom of the labor pool - literally: trainee in the Coors Brewing Co. wastewater treatment plant.
"That's about as low as you can get," says Coors, who held a variety of jobs throughout the company before attaining the positions he holds today, chairman of MillerCoors and vice-chairman of Molson Coors Brewing Co. "But I learned the importance of every job in the company."
Looking back on his own long career and that humble start, Coors has some advice for young people entering business today.
"Find an employer who shares your values," he says. "If you get started, work harder than anyone else, ask questions and listen and be willing to do what others are willing to do - legally and ethically, of course - you will be noticed, and opportunities will come your way."
Born in Golden 65 years ago, Peter Hanson Coors earned an industrial engineering degree from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Denver. He had those in hand the day he reported to work at the wastewater facility at the company founded by his great-grandfather, Adolph Coors, in 1873.
When Coors was honored by the National Western Stock Show as the 2011 Citizen of the West, a specially created six-pack of root beer bore one of his favorite sayings: "When you mess up, take your spanking, move on - and try not to deserve one again."
No doubt Coors' six children took that message to heart, but the man himself says some of the best advice he ever received came from his father, Joseph Coors - "You won't make the right decision every time, but if you make the right decision most of the time, you will do well" - and Jesus: "Love thy neighbor as you love yourself."
"He treats everybody as a first-class citizen, whether they're in business or not, whether they're fortunate or unfortunate," says Eaton Metal Products President and CEO Timothy Travis, who has been friends with Coors for more than 30 years.
Travis describes Coors as an astute businessman, a strong leader and the "gentlest man I know."
"He's always got time for people. He's very approachable, and he's very knowledgeable about anything you wish to speak about," Travis says. "He's a great mentor because of his moral character and his business ethics - and his compassion."
Coors credits his upbringing with instilling a belief in the importance of volunteerism and philanthropy. President and trustee of the Adolph Coors and the Castle Rock foundations, he has lent his time and support to a long list of organizations and boards, including the University of Colorado Hospital Foundation, Denver Art Museum, the National Western Stock Show Association, the Denver Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Seeds of Hope Foundation and Homes for Our Troops, which builds specially adapted houses for severely injured soldiers.
An avid outdoorsman, Coors is a former national president and chairman of Ducks Unlimited.
Closest to his heart of all: faith and family, especially his wife of 42 years, Marilyn.
"Certainly my first and greatest accomplishment, which was either blind luck or divined - I believe the latter - was finding and marrying the love of my life," Coors says. "Beyond Marilyn, our six children and a growing number of grandchildren, everything else pales in comparison."
Lisa Ryckman is the online editor at cobizmag.com.