Abdallah Simon helped make the United States the world's key wine market. In 1974, when Seagrams hired him to create a wine import division, Château & Estates, Simon sold 80,000 cases of wine representing $3 million in sales. In 1987, he sold 900,000 cases for $80 million. That year, America was French wine's biggest export destination, and Simon's company accounted for 30 percent of those exports, including one in every five bottles of first-growth Bordeaux.
Born in Baghdad to a Jewish family with a thriving textile business, Simon emigrated to America in 1944 after a pro-Nazi regime took power. He earned his U.S. citizenship while serving two years in the U.S. Army, then worked in textiles in New York with his brother. In 1952, while on a cruise, he tried a bottle of Château Latour 1929 and fell in love. Starting as a salesman with a small importer, Simon rose rapidly through the business before the Bronfman family recruited him to Seagrams. Worldly, intelligent and honorable, Simon developed close ties with winery owners; their trust, and the huge leverage he wielded, made him a key player in the Bordeaux business, able to push for lower prices. It also helped him build U.S. sales for Champagne, Alsace and Burgundy until his retirement in 2003. Simon earned Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 1987. He died in 2011.