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Canandaigua Brands Founder Marvin Sands Dies

Dana Nigro
Posted: August 31, 1999

Marvin Sands, chairman of Canandaigua Brands, died of cancer at his home in Canandaigua, N.Y., on Aug. 28. He was 75.

Sands, the son of a wine bottler, took over a small bulk wine producer in New York's Finger Lakes region in 1945, creating Canandaigua Industries. Under his leadership as CEO until 1993, the company grew into the multibillion-dollar Canandaigua Brands, which produces and markets wine, beer and distilled spirits in North America and the United Kingdom. It is the second-largest wine marketer in the United States.

Early in the company's existence, Sands recognized the difficulties of selling only bulk wine, and in 1954, he launched a proprietary brand of sweet wine, called Richard's Wild Irish Rose, which sent sales soaring. Though still better known for inexpensive wine blends, such as Almaden and Paul Masson, the company has continued to evolve.

Recently, Canandaigua purchased Sonoma County's Simi Winery and Napa Valley's Franciscan Estates, giving it a high-profile presence in the California premium wine market. The Fairport, N.Y.-based company's wine portfolio also includes Arbor Mist, Cook's, Dunnewood, Estate Cellars, Great Western, Inglenook, Marcus James, Manischewitz, Mystic Cliffs, Widmer, Via Firenze and Vina Santa Carolina.

An active philanthropist and community leader, Sands served as chairman of F.F. Thompson Hospital for more than 25 years, helped establish the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center and raised funds for many charitable organizations. Within the wine industry, he served as president of the Finger Lakes Wine Growers Association and was one of the founders of the American Vintners Association.

"Marvin was a visionary leader for more than 50 years, and was the consummate gentleman in everything he did," said Canandaigua's board of directors. "His dedication to our customers and employees and his devotion to the community set an extraordinary example for everyone who knew him."

Sands' son Richard, who is currently vice chairman, president and CEO of Canandaigua Brands, is taking over his responsibilities as chairman. His son Robert continues to serve as chief executive officer of international operations, vice president and general counsel of Canandaigua Brands and CEO of the Canandaigua Wine Company division.

In addition to his two sons, Sands is survived by his wife, Mickey, and several grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 2 p.m. at Temple B'rith Kodesh at 2131 Elmwood Ave. in Rochester, N.Y. Contributions in Marvin Sands' memory can be made to F.F. Thompson Health Systems (350 Parrish St., Canandaigua, NY 14424), to which Sands recently donated $3 million to build a cancer center named after his daugher, Dr. Laurie Sands, who died of cancer in 1995.

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