Dan Baum
Dan Baum
Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty
ISBN: 0688154484
Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty
With enough private dramas to put them on par with the Ewings of Dallas, and enough business crises to keep them constantly in the business hot-seat, the ultra-right-wing Coors of Golden, Colorado, represent one of the more riveting family sagas of our time. Their billion-dollar empire grew out of a single brewery begun in 1873, but it wasn't long before the family became known as much for their right-wing politics as their beer.

The third generation of Coors men financed the birth of the Heritage Foundation, which jump-started the Reagan revolution. Old-fashioned about business and equally dubious of new ideas, they consistently ignored the importance of marketing until they were forced to, finally introducing the "Silver Bullet," and improved their image with unions and minorities only after they were compelled to do so by years of boycotts. Former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum captures the eccentricity and foibles of this family and company in this fast-paced tale of vivid characters in business and politics.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty
Program Air Date: June 11, 2000

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dan Baum, author of "Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty," what do people get with this book?
Mr. DAN BAUM, AUTHOR, "CITIZEN COORS: AN AMERICAN DYNASTY": They get--they not only get the story of this very odd family. These people are very odd ducks indeed. They--they get kind of a history of the 20th century. And this was a family committed--is a family committed to the idea that the 20th century was basically a bad idea, and they were going to do everything they could politically and in their business life and in their personal lives to stop the 20th century from happening. And they lose; at the end--at the very end of the century, they are defeated by it, but they put up a very good fight. And--so you get the rise of the right; these are the original fin--financiers of the--of the new right. You get a thumbnail history of the labor movement in the last 30 years. You get a great labor--you get a labor defeat and then a labor victory, and--and a pretty cool business story.
LAMB: Who's in this picture on the cover?
Mr. BAUM: That is Adolf Jr.--the man on the right on the bottom is the son of the original founder. That's Adolf Jr. And standing behind him are his three sons: from left to right, that's Bill Coors, now about 80; Joe Coors, a year younger; and Ad Coors, who in 1960 was kidnapped and murdered. Sitting in the front row with Joe Jr. are his two brothers who don't play much of a part in the business or in the book. Joe Coors, the man down there, the--the old--I mean, Adolf Jr., the old man in the black suit, he dressed like that every day until he died in 1970. He walked around looking like he was playing Martin Van Buren in a stage play--you know, an alpaca three-piece suit with a high-button collar and a black bow tie and high-button shoes, a walking anachronism; kind of emblematic of how the family thought of themselves.
LAMB: Where do they live?
Mr. BAUM: Golden, Colorado, which...
LAMB: Where's that?
Mr. BAUM: It's only about 15 miles from downtown Denver, but it is another planet from Denver. It is not a suburb. It feels like a little universe unto itself. And this is the thing. They don't leave that town very much and they don't know much about the world outside of that town. So as rich as they are and as influential as they've been, they're very unsophisticated people and it shows in their business and political life.
LAMB: You mentioned Bill Coors and Joe Coors who...
Mr. BAUM: Those are the two main--the two main characters of the book, and then--because they're the ones who take over the brewery from their father in the '50s pretty much--I mean, the father is there until the '70s, but they're really running the place. And--and then the next generation is Peter Coors, who is the man we see on--in the commercials, and he's Joe's son, Bill's nephew.
LAMB: Who's running the company today?
Mr. BAUM: Nobody named Coors. That's the--that's the end of the book. The--the--the business story in this book--there's kind of two threads running in this book. There's the political story and the business story. And the business story is one of a 70-year battle or a 100-year battle against the forces of marketing. These are people who just abhorred the idea that you should have to try to sell your product. They say you make a good product and you pr--price it fairly, people will buy it. And they make excellent beer, always have made excellent beer and, for a long time, that worked.

But in the '70s, the whole beer industry changes, certain dramatic things happen, and the need for marketers in that brewery becomes apparent and they fight it and fight it and fight it and, finally, by the--by the early '90s, they can't fight it any longer and they end up giving the brewery--command of the brewery--absolute command of the brewery to a marketer from Frito-Lay, a man who has no history in the brewing business, no sense of the tradition of brewing--their worst nightmare, their worst enemy. It's like--it's like handing over the--the keys to the city to--to savages. And they walk out of the brewery and never go back. I mean, Peter is nominally CEO, but he's--or president, but he--or--CEO or president--but it doesn't matter what his title is, he has very little to do with the running of the brewery. And...
LAMB: Is it a public company?
Mr. BAUM: It is but they don't sell anything but non-voting shares, so it's not the most attractive stock and the stock price--now there--now it's doing better but, for years, nobody bought the stock.
LAMB: Who controls the board?
Mr. BAUM: The family controls the board. They have--they have various board members from outside, but the family still controls the board. But they--but the decisions about running the brewery are all made by people who are not named Coors.
LAMB: How big a company is it in--in dollars?
Mr. BAUM: It's about a billion four.
LAMB: How does it fit with Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch...
Mr. BAUM: It's tiny. It's tiny.
LAMB: What's the market share?
Mr. BAUM: About 11 the last time I looked. And in the beer business, 15 percent is the magic number. I mean, Anheuser-Busch has half, and Miller has about 28 percent. Those are the Goliaths. And according to the--all the Coors people I spoke to, interviewing the book, 15 percent was always their magic number. That was the number they thought they needed to compete, you know. And it has to do with economies of scale and buying media time and all kinds of things like that. They never got near 15 percent and they probably won't. They're just not--first of all, there's the lingering boycott which continues to hurt them. And they're also--they're just not that smart a company, unfortunately.
LAMB: Who's boycotting them?
Mr. BAUM: Well, the--the other great thread in this book is their political story. Joe Coors, in particular; also, his brother--but--but Joe, in particular, was really the first big-time financier of the new right. In--in the '50s, in the early '60s, there really was no conservative movement as we now know it. Lionel Trilling, at the time, wrote that there's--there's only one--liberalism is not only the dominant ideology, it's the only ide--ideology in America. The National Review existed, but that was about all there was to bring together people of conservative politics, and so conservatives back then, each was on his own, thinking he was wandering in a--in a liberal wilderness.

And Joe, who's very conservative, for reasons we can talk about, from the lessons that this family learned in the--the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, very conservative, very rich and no desire to spend any money on themselves. These are very simple-living people; they drive old cars, lived in--live in unassuming houses, very modest--personally modest people, looks around for something he can do to help turn the country to the right; he's a very, very politically conservative guy. And through a series of circumstances, founds the Heritage Foundation, which gives the conservative movement in the United States its first piece of real estate.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. BAUM: 1970, I believe.
LAMB: How'd he do it?
Mr. BAUM: Money. He--he got a hold--he wrote a letter to the--to the Republican senator from Colorado, Gordon Allot, and he was out of town and so the letter lands on Allot's press secretary's desk--this young guy from Wisconsin named Paul Weyrich who now, of course, is one of the pillars of the--of the new right and says, `I want to spend money on the conservative movement; I want to do something.' And as Richard Viguerie explained it, he said, you know, what--what the movement needs is real estate; as he put it, you know, the Jews were the world's whipping boys until they had Israel; and the Mormons were wanderers in the desert until they had Utah. We need an address; we need a place, a place for reporters to call, a place to do research for Republican members of Congress, a place to give some body to the--to the conservative movement, a gathering place with prestige. And that's what Joe did.

He also started a--a--a television network way before its time. I mean, what he--what he did, he started a news operation to deve--to deliver to television stations film reels--in those days film reels--of premade news stories to air all with a conservative bent. It failed; he spent a lot of money on it. It failed for a lot of reasons but it was a visionary thing to do; I mean, I don't have to tell you. You know, to start a whole new forum of television news was a--was a visionary thing to do.
LAMB: You point out...
Mr. BAUM: He put a lot of money into it.
LAMB: One quick thing, though, you point out the--the man he hired to run his news operation was Roger Ailes.
Mr. BAUM: Yes, that's--that's--among the people that we have the Coorses to thank for is for Roger Ailes, James Watt, Ronald Reagan.

So you asked about the boycott. This is a long-winded way of getting back to the boycott. The Coorses, being ideologically conservative, were always offended by having a union in their brewery. And in 1977, really the worst imaginable time for them because Miller Lite had appeared two years earlier and was eating up their market share, they decide finally they're going to get rid of the union once and for all, and they do it with stunning speed; it's childlishly simple for them to force the union into a strike. The union has no--doesn't have any kind of i--ideological underpinnings the way the Coorses do; the union immediately falls apart and they--they bust the union, hire strike breakers, there's a vote to decertify and the union is out; the first American brewery and still the only large American brewery to be non-union.

No brewery in its right mind would want to be non-union. I mean, beer is a working-man's beverage, and if you're a brewer interested in prospering, you don't go out and pick a fight with the unions. But the Coorses, always being more interested in making good beer and doing the right thing as they saw it politically, they don't care about picking a fight with unions. They want to pick a fight with unions. And they do and unfortunately for them, the--after the strike collapses, George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO, hands over to a former brewery worker named David Sickler the responsibility for the boycott. And Sickler, for the first time, the Coorses have an ideological match. David Sickler is as committed to the cause of unionism and to the left as the Coorses are to the right. And Sickler organizes, I argue in the book, the most successful boycott against a single corporation in modern times; a boycott that, although it was officially called off 10 years later, still continues; there are a lot of people.

I was just at an event--a lot of people who won't drink Coors--I was just at an event in California and asked a roomful of people, `How many people here don't drink Coors for political reasons?' And most of the hands in the room went up. And I started asking people their ages and half the people who had their hands up weren't even born in 1977--you know, don't even know why they're not drinking Coors. All they know is Coors, right-wing, bad guys, I won't drink them.
LAMB: How did you get interested in this story?
Mr. BAUM: I wanted to write a book about labor--I had an--an idea for a book about these labor organizers that I knew and I was really interested in labor issues and I couldn't sell that book. And a friend was at--we were living--living in Montana at the time, and a friend who's a political science professor from Colorado was up visiting and he's telling stories about politics in Colorado and the name Coors keeps coming up. So the next day, I went to look for the books on the Coors family and there weren't any. And I felt like, you know, don't tell anybody this. I felt like I'd found the Hope diamond sitting on the surface of the earth because Coors--I'm 44; Coors looms large in my political past. I mean, Coors was a big deal when I was--you know, around the sev--late '70s and early '80s. And the Coors boycott was a big deal, and--and I remember when Coors had this mystique and--I'm from back East and Coors had this mystique because it wasn't sold back East. And I knew there was a great story there, so I wrote a proposal and my agent was able to sell it. And I immediately wrote to the Coors family--the day I heard that the book had sold, I wrote to the Coors family and told them that I'm going to be doing this. And thus began two years of being stiff-armed by the family, which was--which is too bad.
LAMB: How many of the Coorses have you met?
Mr. BAUM: I've met four of them.
LAMB: Which ones?
Mr. BAUM: Bill, who is the grand old man of the family now; his nephews Peter, Jeff, and Joe Jr. Tho--those are the four that I've met. Oh, I briefly shook Joe Sr.'s hand at an annual meeting; I bought a share of Coors stock so I could go to the annual meetings without getting thrown out. And I--and I was able to shake Joe--Joe Sr.'s hand.
LAMB: You say in that book that you spent two hours in conversation with these folks for what reason?
Mr. BAUM: To--well, I thought I was going to talk them into cooperating with the project. Their PR guy who was handling my case told me when we went in--he said, `This is the only bite of the apple you're going to get. You're not going to get these guys again. So ask your toughest questions now.' And I didn't believe him. I thought if I made my case that this was a good thing for them; I'm a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal; I have no ax to grind, you know, I thought I could--I thought I could convince them to cooperate. And they looked at me like I was something stuck to the bottom of their shoe. I did all the talking in those two hours; they said very little.
LAMB: In the back of the book, you list a 150 to 160 people who you did interview.
Mr. BAUM: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Is that everybody you interviewed?
Mr. BAUM: Yeah.
LAMB: Are there--you know, all the dialogue in here and the verbatim quotes come from these people in the back?
Mr. BAUM: Either from these people in the back or from written accounts, yeah.
LAMB: And on the list--and I went through and counted them--John Nichols you interviewed nine times.
Mr. BAUM: Right.
LAMB: More than anybody else. The closest one to it is David Sickler at six times.
Mr. BAUM: Right.
LAMB: Almost everybody in that list is one time, one day.
Mr. BAUM: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Why John Nichols? Who is he? What role did he play in your book?
Mr. BAUM: John Nichols is the first really high-powered marketer that they hire in 1978; an extraordinary guy, very colorful man, a great interview, a great storyteller; he's from Texas. And he's got an ego the size of Texas, but he's--and he's really smart. He had come from Leo Burnett and they--the--the ad agency in Chicago, and they hire him.

And Peter--to go back, Peter, the one we see on television in the--in the commercial, Peter is probably the most tragic figure in the book because Peter is not an engineer. He's the first Coors man not to be trained as an engineer. All the Coorses go to Exeter, then they go to Cornell; they are trained as engineers. They come back and they run the brewery. Peter has more of his mother in him; he's a more sociable guy, and he doesn't--he's not cut out for engineering, and he gets an MBA, which is anathema to the Coorses. They let him do it, but he's never fully trusted. And what's so tragic about Peter is he comes into the brewery in the--in the early '70s just when the beer industry is changing, and marketing is becoming everything in the beer industry--the product is becoming secondary. Precisely because Peter is trained to understand this, he is not trusted by his father and his uncle, and he then goes into, you know, 25 years of trying to save his family business, knowing what needs to be done and never being able to.

At one point, he's allowed to hire John Nichols--high-powered marketer--to come in and build a--a marketing plan. Nichols does this, but he imports this culture of marketing--you know, these are people--the--the--the brewery in Golden, everybody walks around in J.C. Penney khakis and pocket savers and shop glasses, and they call each other by their first name, and they're very unassuming, simple people, very technically minded. You know, the idea of like making a--a different bottle for a different brand of beer--you know, then you have to change the bottle line--they just don't get it. That kind of thing they just wouldn't understand, whereas Nichols understands every product has to have its own package and--and Nichols comes. He brings in all these sharp young people from Chicago in their Armani suits and Hermes ties and--and, you know, they think the engineers are ridiculous and the engineers think they're a plague, and there's this clash of cultures that's excruciating for everybody. And they eventually--I mean, they don't let Nichols--they kind of--they kind of toy with him--you know, they--they--they give him the money that he wants but then they--they--they tie his hands in what he can do. And he was a great source on this mentality toward marketing that the Coorses had.
LAMB: Where is he now?
Mr. BAUM: He divides his time between Fairhope, Alabama, and Colorado. He's retired. He--he went to Coors--the deal was he was going to go to Coors for two years and then he was going to get a distributorship, and he did. He got a distributorship in Tennessee, and within a year, he was broke. And he made a lot of mistakes that he owns up to. But he also makes a convincing case that the Coorses deliberately destroyed him because, as Peter tells him--I mean, he has--he has occasion to see Peter. Remember, Peter is a marketer at heart; Peter likes that. And he brings Nichols in and--and although Peter is Nichols' boss, it's kind of like, you know, a green second lieutenant is the boss of the 20-year first sergeant. You know, Peter is really learning from Nichols, and he's nominally the boss. And Nichols is his mentor, and--and the family destroys Nichols' brewery and cost him a lot of money and they have occasion to run into each other a couple of years later. And Nichols says, `Why did you do this to me? Why did you--Me? I taught you everything you know. I thought we were friends.' And Peter says, `It's my father. You taught me to ar--you taught me to argue with him.'
LAMB: Peter's father is?
Mr. BAUM: Joe.
LAMB: Page 325. You know what I'm getting at?
Mr. BAUM: Sure. No, what?
LAMB: It starts off, `Peter, usually receptive to strategies for convincing the elders, was subdued throughout the meeting.'
Mr. BAUM: Yeah.
LAMB: `He seemed distracted and morose. He excused himself during one meaningful relationship seminar to take a phone call, and when he returned, his eyes were wet.' What is a meaningful relationship seminar?
Mr. BAUM: Peter, at this point, this is--What is this? The early '80s? Maybe the late '80s?
LAMB: The late '80s.
Mr. BAUM: I guess it's the late '80s--late '80s.
LAMB: I couldn't find the date. It's not on the page.
Mr. BAUM: Late '80s. Peter is desperately trying to command this brewery and he knows he's not up to the job. And he's actually quite candid with his colleagues, but he really isn't up to the job and he knows it. And so he's feverishly reading all the management books--you know, "One Minute Manager" and "In Search of Excellence." And every week, he's got a different one under his arm and he's spouting the platitudes from this or that. And at one point, he brings all the senior staff together for a weekend of meaningful relationship seminars. And it was just one more faddish--faddish strategy that he's trying to command this brewery.
LAMB: At Keystone?
Mr. BAUM: At Keystone, right.
LAMB: And right--where is that, outside of Denver?
Mr. BAUM: It's up in the mountains, right. And that's where he announces that his father, Joe, the--the--the pillar of the brewery, this pillar of moral rectitude, this founder of the conservative movement, has just announced that he's been cheating on his wife, Peter's mother, for the last 13 years and is leaving her. And that's the end of Joe at the brewery. In fact, Joe leaves Colorado and never comes back except to visit. Joe moves off to California, and that's the end of Joe. He's still alive. He's in--he lives in Palm Springs.
LAMB: Now Joe Coors, you say, started through Paul Weyrich the Heritage Foundation.
Mr. BAUM: Heritage Foundation.
LAMB: What else did Joe Coors do?
Mr. BAUM: Joe Coors noticed Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan in 1964 made a famous televised speech before the campaign and it was--it was more a speech about conservation principles than it was--I don't think he mentioned Goldwater's name at all in this speech. It was a call to--this is where he says, `Are we going to--to condemn our children to 1,000 years of darkness or, you know, is this going to be the last, best hope of mankind?' And Joe Coors flies out and shakes Ronald Reagan's hand and--and he not only becomes a financial backer of Ronald Reagan, they become good friends.

One of the good interviews I did for this book was with Lynn Nofsiger, who was Reagan's political director. And Nofsiger describes himself as an ideological kook. And he said when Reagan was becoming--Nofsiger worked for Reagan in the--in the governor's mansion, too, in California as press secretary. And he said, you know, as Reagan got more popular and--and more powerful and more of a national figure, people would start gathering around him who were not ideological conservatives--businessmen who wanted to preserve the status quo and cut taxes and all kinds of opportunists; and he called them fat cats. And--and Nofsiger always mistrusted them. Because he--he--Nofsiger is a bedrock ideological conservative and he always made sure that Reagan got time with Joe Coors 'cause not only did Joe have deep pockets and was willing to write checks, but Joe Coors kept Reagan centered and focused on these conservative principles. And Nofsiger said, `I really didn't have to do much because they really become--became close friends.' And Reagan would fly out to Colorado and just hang out with Joe and Holly and, you know, have dinner with them and sit around the house and talk and they became--they became real friends.

I don't know if you remember the radio addresses Ronald Reagan used to do where Reagan--it's interesting, those radio addresses--he used to do these weekly radio addresses and you can't get the tapes. They are sealed up and they won't give permission for anybody to hear them.
LAMB: I think it's your only footnote in the book.
Mr. BAUM: Yeah, I know. I know. The--the...
LAMB: Why can't you get the tapes?
Mr. BAUM: Well, you tell me.
LAMB: Are these before he was president?
Mr. BAUM: These are well before he's president. In fact, some of them, I think, were before he was governor--well before he was president. These are the--these are the shows on which he coined the term `welfare queen.' These were very conservative, quite strident addresses he was giving on the radio.
LAMB: Where are they? Where are--where are they kept?
Mr. BAUM: I spoke to the men. They're in a vault somewhere. And I spoke to the man who's in charge of them. He said, `No, I'm not permitted to give anybody access.'
LAMB: Are they at the Presidential Library?
Mr. BAUM: Nope, they're not at the--they were made before he was president, so they're not a matter of public record.
LAMB: And what role did Joe Coors have with those?
Mr. BAUM: Joe Coors--Coors Brewery was the sponsor.
LAMB: National sponsor?
Mr. BAUM: National sponsor. Even in places where Coors wasn't sold, Co--Coors Brewery was the national sponsor.
LAMB: Just stop for a moment. They were sold in 11 states, I think you mentioned in here. Why weren't they sold nationwide?
Mr. BAUM: They weren't--they weren't sold nationwide because--to the--to the Coorses, the idea of shipping a bottle of beer across the country was anathema. To them, beer is a living thing. It's like milk, you know. They--they wouldn't even let their beer reach room temperature. They would ship it cold and--and if you were a Coors distributor, you had to build refrigerated warehouses, especially after they stopped pasteurizing. They were the first ones to sell unpasteurized beer. They are--they are nuts on the subject of control and freshness. They never built a second brewery. Even when they were national, they never built a second brewery.
LAMB: Did they ever build the one in Virginia?
Mr. BAUM: They did, but that's a packaging plant. That's a--they would--they would ship concentrate. They would brew the beer in Colorado in a concentrated form, ship it there, mix it with water and package it. But the brewing all has to be done--or all had to be done where Bill Coors himself could see what was happening. Again, these are--these are 19th century people. And they're 19th century people because if you look at the story, the 19th century was very good to them. And the 20th century started out very bad.
LAMB: Are they honest people?
Mr. BAUM: Completely honest people. No matter how you feel about their politics, they're appallingly honest people. I mean, they will say the most god-awful thing because this is how they feel and, by God--you know, Peter will admit to the shareholders, I'm not smart enough--or to his staff, `I'm not smart enough to run the company.' Bill makes a speech in 1986, he gets up in front of a roomful of minority businesspeople and says things like, you know, `The best thing that ever happened to you is when your grandparents were brought over here in chains.' And he's not--he's not racist. And, you know, the reason Africa is in the shape that it's in is because of intellectual capacity. And he says these things, he's not particularly racist, he's just Bill. He's just kind of a country guy and they will say appallingly honest things. And--and they are very honest in their business dealings.

Fritz Maytag owns the Anchor brewery in San Francisco. S--heir to the Maytag washing machine fortune, he buys the Anchor Brewery. He told me when he got into the beer business, all the distributors would say, `You know, we--we get kickbacks from the breweries,' you know, and there was this whole sleazy--whole sleazy system, right? And Fritz, `Well, everybody pays you these kickbacks?' And they said, `Well, Coors doesn't, you know, they just'--and this is why they hated marketing so much. They believed marketing is dishonest.
LAMB: Have you got any sense of what they think of your book?
Mr. BAUM: I heard yesterday from the--the one family member who I actually had some exchanges with was James Coors, who is Adolph IV's brother--little brother. So he is one of the sons of the--of Adolph Coors III who was kidnapped and murdered in 1960. And we had a few e-mail exchanges, nothing much, but some. And he liked the book. And I heard from a friend of the Coorses that there are family members who liked the book. But I haven't even heard from Joe Fuentes, the PR guy who I dealt with fairly often. I haven't even heard from him. I--I don't think they like it very much, which is kind of a pity because I wrote it--I wrote it--I tried to write the book in a way that they would want to see written. I tried to portray them as they would portray themselves. I don't share their politics. But I bent over backwards to write the political stuff. And when I was writing about how they see the world politically, I was trying to write from their point of view.
LAMB: Why do you say you don't share their politics?
Mr. BAUM: I--I'm just not on the same page politically with them. You--not many people are on the same politically. You'd have to be pretty conservative to be on the same page politically. And these are people who don't believe in unions, they don't believe in public education, they don't believe in welfare, and they are--they are way out there. They are not Focus on the Family religious conservatives. They are the sons--Joe's sons--this gets complicated because they're different politically on--on social issues. But Bill and Joe have never been, you know, anti-abortion, anti-ERA. That's not their thing. Their thing is big government and the--and any manifestation of big government they abhor.
LAMB: But in the book, you talk a lot about the different tragedies. Start with the great--or the grandfather, the original Adolph Coors.
Mr. BAUM: The original Adolph Coors? You know, I'm a cynical reporter. I'm as a--cynical reporter as the next guy and I start this book and I think, `Well, I'm gonna find the holes in this' 'cause they--they put--they--they put forward this--this immigrant miracle story.
LAMB: Is this him, by the way?
Mr. BAUM: That's Adolph. That's young Adolph Coors. That's him at his heyday.
LAMB: What year would you say this is?
Mr. BAUM: That's probably about 1890.
LAMB: Came from where?
Mr. BAUM: Prussia, Dortland. Sti--and I'm--and I'm--and I'm gonna find the holes in this story and I'm gonna disprove this immigrant miracle story, and God help me, it's true. It's one of these classical bootstrap immigrant miracle stories.
LAMB: Started where in the United States?
Mr. BAUM: Baltimore--he lands in Baltimore. Stows away on a ship 'cause he can't--doesn't have the fare, lands in Baltimore where he could have stayed. He doesn't speak any English, he could have stayed. There are a lot of Germans in Baltimore. It would have been a very comfortable thing to do. But he wants a brewery. He--his parents died. He was apprenticed to a brewery at about the time both his parents died, within a few months of each other. So beer enters his life as his parents leave it. And I think that leaves him kind of obsessed with brewing. He also is not a verbal man. He--he's a craftsman. He likes doing things with his hands. He's not a businessman. And he wants his own brewery. He's a perfectionist and he comes out to Illinois and he works in a brewery for a while, but he wants his own. And he gets on a train and goes to Denver four years before the battle of Little Bighorn. This is, you know, the dawn of time. Denver is about 30,000 people. And he finally founds his own brewery--he has a partner for a while--on the banks of Clear Creek, on the site where the brewery is now. I mean, they--they never moved. And he brewed good beer is I think the only explanation for his success because there were other breweries in Denver. Within a few years, he was winning prizes at Chicago expo--exhi--exhibitions.

An amazing man, an unhappy man, a taciturn, brooding man--you know, making his children--you know, family meals are silent and, you know, this Prussian discipline in the household and he has no interest whatsoever outside the--the brewery, outside of making beer. And--and there's a flood and he almost loses the whole--the whole brewery in this flood and he bends the river. He bends Clear Creek to save his brewery and I kind of use that in the book as a metaphor. He bends a river. I mean, not even nature is bigger than the will of Coors. And--so the 19th century is very good to this family and then at the beginning of the 20th century, prohibition is imposed, 1915 in Colorado. And the lesson that the Coo--now they can't make beer anymore. And they keep the business open by making malted milk. And the lesson that they take away is, `Government is the enemy. Government is the bad guy; that with a wave of its imperious hand, government can take away the livelihood of an industrious, hardworking, ingenious entrepreneur,' and they never get over it. In 1929, he throws himself out of a window and kills himself.
LAMB: How old was he?
Mr. BAUM: Eighty, 79 or 80. He was old. In Virginia Beach.
LAMB: And what's the reason for killing himself?
Mr. BAUM: The--who knows? I--by all accounts, he was never the happiest of men. He wasn't able to make beer. He spent years walking around what used to be his brewery, watching a children's confection leave the loading docks, and I think he saw a future without beer. And remember, the only thing he's interested in--he's not interested getting rich, he's not interested in being powerful, he's not interested in being a political figure--that's right before his suicide. The only--only thing he's interested in is making beer, and now he can't make beer. So that was probably the cause.

And you ask why--he never told his story. His son, Adolph Jr., who took the brewery out of Prohibition and made it into a giant, a regional giant...
LAMB: Is this Junior?
Mr. BAUM: That's Adolph Jr., in his black suit. He--he does not look like a particularly happy man, and was, by all accounts, not. He never told his story, and I--as I explained to Bill Coors when I met him, I said, `Mr. Coors, you're 79 years old. You may not get the chance--another chance to have a former Wall Street Journal reporter come and try to do a straight-up history of your family. I mean, maybe--I mean, you can't--they were--they were printing their own at the time, but, you know, people don't take self-printed histories as seriously--`and you may not get the chance. You really ought to tell your story, for the good of the family, for the good of American history. I mean, you--you're a big part of American history.' And he just looked at me, like, you know, `I--I didn't invent you. Therefore, you don't exist.'
LAMB: Anybody besides Joe Coors become political?
Mr. BAUM: Bill supported Joe--no. But that's...
LAMB: What about Holly Coors, and who was she?
Mr. BAUM: Oh, Holly--I'm sorry. Holly Coors--you f--you tend to forget the women, because people keep asking me, `Hey, there's no women in this book.' That's because...
LAMB: By the way, there's no pictures of any of the women, except for the...
Mr. BAUM: The women don't exist, as far as the family's concerned. Joe--the--the original Adolph Coors decreed that women shall never have a place in the business, and therefore, they don't exist. There are wives and--there are tragic wives--it does not sound easy to be a Coors wife--but they--there are no Coors women in the business.
LAMB: But Holly Coors separated--divorced from her husband for what, the last 10 years?
Mr. BAUM: Yes.
LAMB: Did you try to talk to her?
Mr. BAUM: I did.
LAMB: What happened?
Mr. BAUM: Stiff-armed me. I did speak to Bi--one of Bill's ex-wives, Phyllis Coors, a little bit. She's delightful. She was--she didn't help me much, but she was--I got so--I got some stuff out of her. I was able to confirm impressions with her. Holly didn't want to talk to me. Holly--Holly--Holly now involves herself with a lot of conservative causes.
LAMB: Born again?
Mr. BAUM: Yes.
LAMB: But you--there's a lot of that in your book.
Mr. BAUM: I don't dwell on it. Interestingly, you know, they--they are--Holly is born again--remember, Holly's Joe's wife, and their sons, except for Peter, are born-again Christians.
LAMB: Jeff?
Mr. BAUM: Jeff, and Joe Jr., but not Peter. But their--and John and Grover--but their politics, except recently--n--now they're involved with organizations that are closely allied with social conservatives and religious conservatives--but the--the early days, the really significant days, it was not that type of conservatism. It was--they were not come in your house and tell you how to live conservatives. They were really more pure ideological conservatives.
LAMB: What kind of impact did--b--back to the announcement at the meeting about Joe Coors splitting from his wife, how--what was the explanation around the mistress? Where did--where was the mistress in his life during those 13 years?
Mr. BAUM: She was a Cornell classmate of his, and they were meeting--Joe became very interested--when he was back here in DC in the early '70s, he became very interested in alumni affairs at Cornell and would go to Cornell a lot and he would always go to the commencements. And everybody thought, `Well, isn't this marvelous of Joe to be so involved in his alma mater,' and it turns out, that's where he was trysting, where--with his paramour, who he has since married. She is--she is now Mrs. Coors.
LAMB: And where do they live?
Mr. BAUM: They live outside of Palm Springs.
LAMB: And he has nothing to do with the--the brewery any more.
Mr. BAUM: He comes--he's on the board, and he comes to the--to the annual meetings, but he has nothing to do with the day-to-day operation.
LAMB: What impact did that story, that event, have on the Paul Weyrichs and people who were putting all their faith in Joe Coors to start Heritage and start the Free Congress Foundation?
Mr. BAUM: By that time, Joe was a grand old man, but kind of a--an emeritus figure in the conservative movement. Remember, this is the late '80s by then. Jeff and Holly are now the ones who are on the boards of the--of the Free Congress Foundation and the Committee for National Policy. Joe by then was a--a beloved old man of the movement, but was not himself--it didn't have much of an effect.
LAMB: You have a paragraph on that same page: `Holly, atilt with grief and humiliation, showed up at the Teamsters' organizing office one morning, shook hands with the startled men in windbreakers and urged them to, quote, "Go beat the S-H-I-T out of those sons of bitches up there," unquote.'
Mr. BAUM: Yeah.
LAMB: Where did you get that quote?
Mr. BAUM: From one of the Teamsters who was in--in the room when she came in.
LAMB: And why would she say that to a bunch of Teamsters?
Mr. BAUM: She was angry. She was hurt. I mean, she had--Holly was a Philadelphia socialite who had wanted to be a photojournalist. She's a smart woman, and--very dynamic woman--and I've seen her--I've seen her in public--and she intended to have a career as a photojournalist, which is a pretty bold thing for a woman to be thinking in the '40s, and--or in the '50s--and she decided when she married into this family, that she was going to play the Coors game, and she abandoned any thought of a career for herself and threw herself into being Mrs. Joe Coors and by all accounts never regretted it--raised his five sons and was Donna Reed, was the--was the perfect housewife and had sacrificed her own identity to be Mrs. Joe Coors. And then he did this to her, and she was knocked for a loop.
LAMB: Other tragedies in the family--who was murdered?
Mr. BAUM: Adolph III, who is Joe--Adolph II's oldest son. And this is so important, because this is a family that is--first of all, it's used to getting its way on everything. I mean, not even nature--as I said, not even nature get--is more powerful than the Coors way. And the Coors way was to hand the brewery from Adolph to Adolph to Adolph, and from the day he was born, Adolph III is raised to run that brewery.

Now as it turns out, he really wasn't all that well-suited to run the brewery. He didn't like beer very much and he was allergic to beer. And he had a terrible stutter, which made him ill-suited to be the front man for the company. But no matter--it didn't matter whether he was suited for it or not. He was Adolph III, by God, he was going to run that brewery.

He is kidnapped in 1960, and it's a particularly painful kidnapping, because he is--he's grabbed--he disappears one day, and the family gets a--a note from the kidnapper demanding ransom, and agrees to pay the ransom and then nothing ever happens. The kidnapper disappears, and Ad is gone, and he's just gone, for nine months. And then his body is found; he--he had been de--he had been killed in the attempt to kidnap him, as it turns out, and the kidnapper made the ransom demand but then lost his nerve. He's since been caught, tried, served his whole sentence, and while I was doing the book, was paroled, and I tried to get to him and couldn't--couldn't get to him.
LAMB: What happened to Adolph Coors III's wife?
Mr. BAUM: She soldiered on. Another tragic Coors wife, never liked being a Coors wife. She, too, very intelligent woman, very sophisticated woman, urban, urbane, smoked, educated, enjoyed a cocktail now and then, liked to express her own opinions, had a very good sense of humor--complete anathema to the--to old man Coors, Adolph Jr. She, by all accounts, disliked them intensely, didn't like having to go up to the brewery, and she's treated very badly by the family thereafter. In fact, she and all her children are cut out of the will, are cut out of the family trust, because they are--they're just--they're--they're not approved of, and J--old man Coors, old--old Adolph Coors Jr., because he didn't approve of them and they didn't approve of him, just changed his wife's--he actually went in and changed his wife's will, the trust agreement--trust papers on his wife and cut the widow and all the children of his oldest son out of the family fortune. These are tough people. These are tough guys.

And Joe, Adolph's other son, disowned his adult son for getting married without permission when he was in college. Coors men don't married in college. You finish college first. `Well, I'm going to get married.' `Well, you're out.' Gone. And he doesn't come back until his father is revealed to be a philanderer, and then he seizes the moment to come back.

These are tough, cold people, brutal to each other, and the significance of the--of the kidnapping and the murder, is that Bill, the second son--very good engineer, a man who never wanted to work in the brewery, who wanted to be a surgeon or a concert pianist, but comes back and serves the family and he's wor--he wor--he is now going to be the oldest son, and this is a position for which he was never trained, never raised. He has the skills to do it; this is the irony. He's in many ways way more qualified than his older brother ever was to run that brewery, but he's not Adolph III, and in fact, after Adolph III's death, at the board meetings, Adolph Jr., the father, would say--he would read a little eulogy to his son before every board meeting started and would always end, `This company will never be the same.' That said, Bill was free to try his best. But Bill always understands that in a way, he's a usurper. He's an impostor.
LAMB: Where do you live?
Mr. BAUM: I now live in California.
LAMB: Where?
Mr. BAUM: Watsonville, Monterey Bay--at Monterey Bay.
LAMB: Why there?
Mr. BAUM: We had been living in Mexico for the last two years, and Watsonville's very Mexican. We like living among Mexicans, but we wanted to be back in the States, and Watsonville's very Mexican. It was a place in California we could afford to live. Very nice place.
LAMB: What were you doing in Mexico?
Mr. BAUM: Writing this book. I got the contract; we moved to Colorado for a year, about 14 months when I did the research, and then we took all the research and our five-year-old daughter and went and lived in a tiny little village under a live volcano in Mexico.
LAMB: And you can afford to do all this on the advance on this book?
Mr. BAUM: Well, that's why you go to Mexico, because, you know, a house costs $50 a month to rent, so to make the advance last, Mexico--Mexico was--was great. The year in Colorado was expensive. You know, it--it's--it's brutal, because a lot of people who write books either have jobs or have spouses or have trust funds, and they do it in their spare time. And my wife and I, we worked together. You know, we try to live on the advances, go from advance to advance and it's--it's tough. So Mexico was great. I mean, Mexico was fun for a lot of other reasons, but it also helped save a lot of money.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
Mr. BAUM: New Jersey.
LAMB: Where?
Mr. BAUM: South Orange.
LAMB: How long did you live there?
Mr. BAUM: Till I went to college--went to Northwestern for two years, and then to NYU for two years, and then my family moved into--when I went to college, my family moved into Manhattan, so that's now home.
LAMB: What are your parents like, and what'd they do?
Mr. BAUM: My parents are great folks, educated folks. My father worked for Colgate-Palmolive as a sales executive for years. My mother--when I got old enough, when I was in junior high, my mother went back to school, got a master's in counseling, ran various social service agencies; Democrats, FDR Democrats. You know, very supportive; always very supportive.
LAMB: What'd you do when you got out of...
Mr. BAUM: Hated when I left The Wall Street Journal. That was the one thing they didn't like.
LAMB: How long were you there?
Mr. BAUM: I was at the Asian paper for a couple of years, and then I was at the--in--in New York and Boston for about a year and a half.
LAMB: What did you do before that, right after you got out of NYU?
Mr. BAUM: I went and lived in West Berlin and tried to be a novelist, very unsuccessfully; wrote three really dreadful short novels. Came back and went to work for a little trade paper in New York City called Energy User News, that the editor in chief of that was Bob Butler, who you now know as Robert Olen Butler, and he was writing his first novel then, and it just turned out to be this extraordinary group of really energetic journalists, and we've all since gone on to good things.
LAMB: Which book is this for you?
Mr. BAUM: This is number two.
LAMB: And what role did your wife play in the book itself?
Mr. BAUM: All I did on this book that she didn't do was the research and the first draft. We worked very closely. Her name's Margaret Knox. We--we met when we were reporters at the Atlanta Constitution in 1985, and we very quickly quit and moved to Africa, and opened a freelance news bureau, which we did for three years, to serve American and foreign radio and newspapers, and we've been freelancing together--well, for 13 years. We've been married for 13 years, and we've always worked together.
LAMB: How many kids...
Mr. BAUM: I mean, I--I couldn't begin to do this work without her, so...
LAMB: And how many kids do you have?
Mr. BAUM: We have one.
LAMB: There--early in the book or some point early, you point out that Joe Coors relied on three well-known writers, and--because this is about books, I want to bring it up--Russell Kirk, Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley. And you say those three men had a big impact on him. Why those three?
Mr. BAUM: Russell Kirk, more than anybody. In fact, one of the questions I always ask people when I'm writing about somebody who I can't talk to is, `What do they read?' And the only book I ever heard anybody talk about the Coorses reading was Russell Kirk's "The Conservative Mind"--which came out in '52 or something. And Russell Kirk's book "The Conservative Mind" was the first articulation of an American conservative ideology. And it's a--it's a remarkable book, and--and it really foretells the Reagan revolution and the Gingrich revolution beautifully. I mean, this is...
LAMB: Who was he, by the way?
Mr. BAUM: He was an instructor at Michigan State, I believe, an obscure guy. And when he wrote that, the National Review hadn't yet appeared. The National Review doesn't appear till 1955, but this was--this was the--and there were--there were conservative books; there was one in England and--but there was no--I mean, this was it. This was--this was kind of, you know, Genesis for the conservative movement in the United States. And Joe, by all accounts--again, I've never had the chance to talk to him about it--by all accounts, was really excited about it. For one thing, he finally saw that, well, he wasn't alone, you know. There were other people who felt the way he he did.

And before he--before he founds the Heritage Foundation, he--he runs for regent of the University of Colorado and--and he becomes a regent, and--this is in the '60s, and, you know, SDS is holding its national convention on the University of Colorado campus--and he is determined that he is going to keep the '60s from happening at the University of Colorado. Of course, he doesn't, but--but makes himself very visible. He was never afraid--the Coorses are private people; you don't see them on the society pages in The Denver Post. They're not flamboyant, they're not out there. Joe was, and he would make alarming speeches and became a lightning rod very early on. So...
LAMB: You also say he went on to be on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Mr. BAUM: No, he didn't. He tried.
LAMB: I--I'm sorry, no. You--you talk about...
Mr. BAUM: Yeah.
LAMB: ...you talk about everything but the vote...
Mr. BAUM: Right.
LAMB: I mean, the--the approval vote. Tell...
Mr. BAUM: Right.
LAMB: What's that story?
Mr. BAUM: He wanted to get on the--he thought the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was, you know, the next thing to the propaganda arm of the Kremlin, and he wanted a seat on that board. And the last day of Richard Nixon's presidency, Richard Nixon appointed him to a seat on the board of CPB. Joe already had started this right-wing network. I mean, it was an obvious conflict of interest, first of all, but then Joe writes a letter to the president of CPB complaining about a show about the funeral industry based on Jessica Mitford's book, and tries to strong-arm the president of Public Broadcasting, and--and Congress just eats him alive.

But they would have eaten him alive, anyway. I mean, he had--you know, these are folks who went out of their way to draw attention to themselves as strident conservative. They--they--they wanted everybody to know it, and because of that, they got clobbered in the boycott, and they never understood. I mean, the boycott happened in 70--it was really launched in '78, when the Carter presidency is in its last two years, Reagan is ascending, there are a lot of people in the United States--and then Reagan is elected--and you know, for Reagan to be elected, for them it was like the second coming. It was the--it was--it was the grand moment. It was everything they dreamed of. It was the worst thing that could have happened to a brewery.
LAMB: Let me--let me, though, just ask you this, though. Would--and I'll just say these things and you tell me whether it's right or wrong. Would you say they have as much money as they can possibly spend today?
Mr. BAUM: As much as they can spend? Oh, sure.
LAMB: Yeah. So they--financially they're very successful.
Mr. BAUM: And they've always been. They've always had all the money they wanted--more than they wanted.
LAMB: So no matter what the percentages and all, they've got all the money they need.
Mr. BAUM: Right.
LAMB: OK. And secondly, if you're Joe Coors, do you sit back and say, `I had an impact on this country and changed things, through the Heritage Foundation...
Mr. BAUM: Yes.
LAMB: ...through Ronald Reagan...'
Mr. BAUM: Yes. And they're very proud of that--very proud of that.
LAMB: So no matter what is said in the book or whatever, d--d--would they--do they conclude then, sitting around the table, `We--this worked for us.'
Mr. BAUM: It--the ironic thing is, it worked--they turned the country rightward, but they had to change their practices within the walls of their beloved brewery, because they were so beat up by this boycott--this was a company that used to run lie detector tests to run the homosexuals out. This was a company that was so adamant against hiring women, that when they were finally really forced to in the '70s, they wouldn't have a women's bathroom in the brewery, and make the women brewery workers walk all the way up to the secretaries' bathroom in the office and charge the time against their breaks.
LAMB: Did they have a loyalty oath?
Mr. BAUM: They didn't have a loyalty oath, but--but the--but the agreement was--I mean, J--Joe pushed for the loyalty oath at the--at the--at the university and got it, you know, loyalty to the United States--but--but the--the deal was at Coors, if you work for Coors, we pay you well, but we own you. You are a piece of machinery.
LAMB: Did you have to go to a psychiatrist?
Mr. BAUM: They ran everybody through psychiatrists in order to spy on them. They were having all the psychiatrists' notes routed to them, because they wanted to see who wasn't loyal to the family.
LAMB: But what did you find out...
Mr. BAUM: Paranoid...
LAMB: But what did you find out about the people that worked there? Did they like them? Did they like working there? Did they make enough money?
Mr. BAUM: Everybody talked about it as `the golden handcuffs.' You made great money. You had all the overtime you wanted, more than you wanted. But if you planned a vacation with your family and the brewery needed you, you canceled your vacation. You cut your hair the way they wanted you to cut your hair. You worked where they told you to work. They--there--there were--if--if you had--when--back when they had a union, if you had seniority for a position--and unions take that stuff very seriously--they would just ignore it. They would just put people where they wanted. They were very imperious with their he--they would call them all by the first name, and everybody could call Bill by the first name. But it's a complicated relationship. The best way to describe it is a plantation.
LAMB: But in the end when they brought in the first outsider to run the place, the name...
Mr. BAUM: Right, '93. Leo Kiely.
LAMB: Leo Kiely. K-I-E-L-Y?
Mr. BAUM: Right.
LAMB: Did he fire, let go...
Mr. BAUM: Yes.
LAMB: ...two-thirds of the employees of the whole company?
Mr. BAUM: Yes. Yes. Well, this was in large part why they hired him, by--the Coorses hated their union, very devoted to their--to their workers. Remember, they kept the brewery open during Prohibition making malted milk really to keep these people employed. They've always felt a responsibility to their workers. The--the company had grown so bloated--nobody ever got fired from Coors, because it was kind of a si--it was--it was a lifetime position, and--and they were tr--they were paying people well. The payroll was bloated; they had all these layers of middle management because they would hire marketers to try to correct what the last marketers did but they would never fire anybody. So the place is really bloated. And Peter understands that the first thing that has to happen is a lot of people have to get fired, and he doesn't have the stomach to do it. I mean, that is the proximate reason for him hiring Kiely...
LAMB: But...
Mr. BAUM: ...as a headsman.
LAMB: But whose benefit is it that all those people were then fired in the end?
Mr. BAUM: The shareholders.
LAMB: And the shareholders are--how much of it belongs to the Coors family?
Mr. BAUM: I'm af--I was afraid you were going to ask me that. I don't have the number.
LAMB: What do you guess? Is it 25 percent, 50 percent?
Mr. BAUM: Twenty-five percent to 30 percent, I would guess, maybe more.
LAMB: So after you've spent all this time with this family, what's the moral of the story?
Mr. BAUM: Everybody--everybody plays by the rules sooner or later. Nobody is bigger than the tide of history. I mean, the--the Coorses made the--the strongest effort anybody has ever made, probably, to turn back the hands of time, and they got beat, and they--and they were defeated by it. Modern times caught up with them like they catch up with everybody else.
LAMB: At the beginning you said this was an odd family.
Mr. BAUM: Very odd family.
LAMB: Explain that word, `odd.' What do you really mean by that?
Mr. BAUM: Cold. Hard. Military. Absolute obedience demanded of--of--you know, filial piety is--is mandatory. The book is full of--of people named Coors who don't want anything to do with that brewery, who don't want to work at the brewery, and are forced to work at the brewery.
LAMB: In...
Mr. BAUM: Peter himself--Bill himself.
LAMB: In the end, who were you surprised that didn't want to talk to you at all? Not--forget the family. I'm talking about outsiders. Were there people just say, `No, I'm not going to talk about that,' worried about the money part of it?
Mr. BAUM: The Coorses--the--the mythology around the Coors brewery is that the--that the press is out to get them, that nothing good can ever be written about the family, which is hilarious, because I'm a former business reporter, and you read the press on the Coorses, and it's all so soft. It's all so laudatory. They hardly ever get skunked by the press. But they--they're kind of paranoic, and they think the press is out to get them, so there would be people close to the family who would say, `No, the family doesn't want me to talk--the family said--the family asked everybody, "Don't talk to Dan Baum,"' and there were people who said, `No, I'm not going to talk to you. You're just--you're just going to do a hatchet job.

There were other people very close to the family who would say, `You know, I think the family's crazy not to talk to you, and I will, because I want you to understand these people the way they'd want--they would want to be understood, and I can tell you about them.' And those folks were great.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. There's more in it that we didn't get to, obviously. It's called "Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty," by Dan Baum. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. BAUM: Thank you. It's been great.


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