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FOOD AND BEVERAGE

Snapple Co-Founder Leonard Marsh Dies at 80

First a window washer, then a beverage mogul. Here's how a kid from Brooklyn launched a beverage empire.
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Leonard Marsh, the Brooklyn-born Snapple co-founder who started his career as a window washer, died Tuesday on Long Island, New York. 

An obituary published in The New York Times Thursday recalls the early days of the company, when three friends from Brooklyn began experimenting with tea and juice--despite having little experience in the field: 

When Mr. Marsh began Unadulterated Food Products with his colleagues, he knew chickens and he knew eggs. He also knew windows. But when it came to his start-up venture, as he told Crain's New York Business in 1989, he knew "as much about juice as about making an atom bomb."

The three men did wind up making a bomb of sorts: a batch of carbonated apple juice that accidentally fermented, shooting scores of bottle caps skyward.

In the early 1990s, at the height of Snapple's popularity, the company attracted the attention of larger food and beverage conglomerates. In 2008, after the death of Marsh's co-founder, Hymen Golden, Inc.'s Jeff Bailey recounted the company's turbulent buy-out by Quaker Oats:

The company helped usher in a more varied and innovative beverage industry in the United States, and Golden made more than $100 million when Snapple was sold, first to a leveraged-buyout firm and then to Quaker Oats, which paid $1.7 billion for the company in 1994. But he had to watch as Quaker Oats botched combining the company with its own operations, sold it off for a mere $300 million, and in the process turned Snapple into a synonym for a failed acquisition.

Two decades ago Marsh was honored by Beverage Industry, a trade publication, as the 1993 Executive of the Year. In an interview, Marsh was described as "Mr. Nice Guy," an ode to his humble,  fair, and mild-mannered legacy as the company's CEO.

Marsh also has helped people continue their employment. Three years ago, when the company moved to Valley Stream from the Ridgewood section of New York City, Marsh and company bought a bus so that employees without transportation could stay on board with Snapple.
The company also has flexible hours so that employees who have children or parents to care for can do just that.

"A lot of companies don't have a need for those things," he says. "But, you don't know if you don't ask." And if you say "too bad" to the potential employee who needs an extra hour, then you're not being fair, he adds. "That's just not nice."

Last updated: May 23, 2013




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