William “Bill” K. Coors, grandson of Coors founder Adolph Coors and former chairman of the company’s board, died Saturday at his home at the age of 102.
During more than 65 years with the company, Coors helped transform a regional brewery, distributing in only a few Western states, into one of the world’s largest breweries.
Born August 11, 1916, he spent four years at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, before entering Princeton University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1938 and a graduate degree in 1939.
In the 1950s, he played a major role in the development of the recyclable aluminum can, which today is the standard in the beverage industry. He also is credited with the introduction of light, pilsner beers and the development of a proprietary, sterile-fill packaging technology that enables MillerCoors to provide consumers with brewery-fresh, packaged draft beers.
Barley was a particular focus to Bill Coors. “Barley is to beer as grapes are to wine,” he would say. Bill and his brother Joe Coors in 1949 purchased land in the San Luis Valley in Colorado to start an experimental barley farm, launching a quest to develop the finest brewing barley in the world. Bill Coors also forged close relationships with barley growers who supplied Coors Brewing. His passion for malt was memorialized in a variety of barley called Bill Coors 100, a name that celebrated his 100th birthday.
In 2003, at age 87, Coors retired from the boards of the Adolph Coors Company and the Coors Brewing Company, although he remained with the company as chief technical adviser.
Bill Coors is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was married three times — first to Geraldine Jackson, with whom he had four children. His second marriage was with Phyllis Mahaffey, with whom he had one son. Later in life he married Rita Bass, who died in 2015.
Molson Coors chairman Pete Coors, Bill Coors’ nephew, called his uncle “an extraordinarily kind and gentle man with enormous passion for our company, our beer and business. Bill considered everyone he met as either family in the broader sense or friend.”
“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. ”Mark Hunter, president and CEO of Molson Coors, said. “Perhaps the most remarkable achievement was his ability to steward the company through its greatest period of growth and expansion, while preserving a culture where people matter most.”