Paul Varga, Chairman and CEO at Brown-Forman | #56
Paul Varga is Chairman and CEO of Brown-Forman, one of largest American owned spirits and wine companies with iconic brands like Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and many more. Under Paul’s leadership the company has experienced a 12% compound annual growth rate. Paul is dedicated to leadership development and currently serves on the board of directors for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Brown-Forman and Macy’s.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Paul Varga was appointed president and chief executive officer of Brown-Forman Corporation on August 1, 2005, and became chairman of the company in August 2007. He has been a member of the company’s board of directors since 2003.
Prior to becoming CEO, Varga served as president and chief executive officer of the company’s Brown-Forman Beverages subsidiary from 2003 to 2005. Since Varga assumed responsibility for the company’s beverage business in 2003, Brown-Forman’s reported annual operating income has grown from $378 million to $685 million, representing a compound annual growth rate of 12%.
Varga also served as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Brown-Forman Beverages. In this capacity, he oversaw the global marketing efforts for the company’s spirit brands.
After beginning his career at Brown-Forman as a summer intern at Brown-Forman in May of 1986, Varga worked in Chicago, Southern California, Nashville, and Louisville in a variety of important positions, including many years of overseeing the company’s most important brand, Jack Daniel’s. Starting in the mid-1990’s, Varga helped the company establish its global brand management system which today continues to provide marketing direction on behalf of Brown-Forman’s brands throughout the world.
Varga is a member of the executive committee of Greater Louisville, Inc. (the Louisville Chamber of Commerce) and concentrates his work there on the Business Leaders for Education Initiative. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Brown-Forman, and Macy’s Inc. Varga is a past board member of the Muhammad Ali Center, the Louisville Urban League the YMCA, and Three Chimneys Farm, a Kentucky-based thoroughbred horse business.
Varga earned his bachelor of business administration degree in finance from the University of Kentucky in 1985. He went on to earn his master’s in business administration at Purdue University in 1987.
Varga resides in Louisville with his wife, Melissa, and their three children.
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Paul says the emergence of social media has made marketing much easier. It’s important to be persistent. Sometimes it takes a while for an idea to take off, but you should never be afraid to try something new.
How has social media influenced your industry?Is there a new idea you’ve been hesitant to try? Why?
Paul has a passion for developing others. He likes to challenge his team members and push them outside of their comfort zone. Sometimes this requires coaching and fostering their excitement about unfamiliar opportunities. Paul enjoys helping people navigate the uncertainty of a new role, and it’s always exciting to watch them succeed.
How has someone’s leadership or coaching influenced you in your career? What aspects of leadership do you most enjoy?
David’s passion is to make the world a better place by developing leaders at all ages through oGoLead, his family’s Lift-a-Life Foundation, Lead4Change, Global Game Changers and The Novak Leadership Institute at the University of Missouri.
Novak has been recognized as “2012 CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive magazine, one of the world’s “30 Best CEOs” by Barron’s, one of the “Top People in Business” by FORTUNE and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review…
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