The Rise of Dick Yuengling

In 1974, Dick Yuengling was fed up with his father’s refusal to modernize the floundering D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery. He walked away, spending 11 years in exile as a beer distributor. Finally, his ailing father agreed to sell him the business for $500,000.

Once in charge, he made the needed changes. Over the next three decades, production grew from 137,000 barrels to 2.8 million, putting his brewery in the nation’s top five. Yuengling himself is in the Forbes 400 of richest Americans, with a net worth of $1.9 billion.

To put it mildly, Yuengling is a hands-on CEO. A self-styled “production nut”, he sometimes runs machinery himself. It’s a running joke at the brewery that everyone on the organization chart reports directly to him.

Yuengling’s lone-wolf approach to business comes with a possible downside: he’s 73 years old, and the brewery is becoming too big for him to manage himself. There’s another problem. Like King Lear, he has daughters and will eventually have to hand over control to one of them. Succession has proved the ruin of many family businesses.

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