He was born in Los Angeles, but spent most of his youth in Miami and attended Miami Beach Senior High School where he was president of his senior class, and a star running back (known as “Crazy Legs” Berish) including, at one time holding the record for the longest punt return for a high school game played in the Orange Bowl stadium. He graduated cum laude from the University of Florida with a B.S. degree in advertising and marketing. He served proudly in the Army as a First Lieutenant for 2 years including 18 months in South Korea.
His entire business career was spent at Jim Beam Brands Worldwide, Inc., from 1957 to 1997. Barry had an incredible career at Jim Beam where he challenged the status quo and propelled the company to become the largest distilled spirits company in the United States and the 5th largest in the world. During his 40-year career, he established or grew several brands that are household names today, such as Jim Beam Bourbon and DeKuyper cordials, eventually becoming Chairman and CEO from 1982 until he retired. One of his most well-known marks in the industry was the original coined term Small Batch, with the celebrated bourbon collection: Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s and Baker’s.
While leading Jim Beam as CEO, Barry was instrumental in its acquisition of National Distillers, tripling the size of the company, and also acquired several brands from Seagram’s Co. that grew the company by an additional 35%. Upon his retirement from Jim Beam, Barry had overseen the creation and branding of more than 100 wine and spirits brands.
In 2000 Barry became the Chairman of Sovereign Brands, the wine and spirits company started by his sons, Brett and Brian, that leads the industry with innovative brands that include the French sparkling wine known as Luc Belaire, and Bumbu, a critically-acclaimed line of rum products, as well as McQueen and the Violet Fog gin, and its newest product, The Deacon, a Scotch Whisky. Today, all of Barry’s sons and one grandson work at Sovereign Brands.
Amongst friends and family, Barry was known as “the man”, “the guy”, “a legend” because he had such charisma and warmth. Barry had the unique ability to make everyone he came in contact with feel like they were important. He could command a room with his storytelling and leave you crying, laughing or both. Always wanting more, you looked forward to seeing him again. He cut his own cloth, from dressing in his own way so that everyone noticed what he was wearing, to his love of art that hung in his home, which was big, bold, colorful, and vibrant just like him. There was always a story to tell in everything he did.
In addition to his impressive career, he was also passionate about family, friends, and sports. He was athletic and loved boating, football, running and tennis. Even though he traveled extensively for work, he made sure he attended his son’s sporting events, and even won an award one year for attending the most wrestling events at New Trier High School. Later, he continued the tradition by attending his grandchildren’s sporting events. He had friendships that lasted years. He also believed in helping others, from family, friends, and even strangers. He served as Chairman of Sky Ranch for Boys and gave generously to his favorite charities.
He was married to Mollybelle for 65 years, and she filled in all the holes that made him better. Together, they had four cherished sons, Brad (Audrey), Brian (Leslie), Blake, Brett (Alana); and 10 grandchildren, who were his pride and joy: Brandon, Brooks, Madison, Bria, Lauren, Beauregard, Lexington, Balthazar, Kensington and Brinxston. A private service will be held for the family.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Disabled American Veterans or Jewish National Fund.