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Sun, Jan 02, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Vodka king enjoys giving money away


Some people compared the taste of Jagermeister to that of cough syrup, but undeterred, Frank acquired his first distributorship in 1973. He hired hundreds of young women, dressed them provocatively, named them the Jagerettes and sent them in the nation's bars to offer men free shots of the liqueur.

It worked. Jagermeister sales went from 600 cases in the United States in 1974 to 1.3 million last year, according to Impact Databank, an industry research group.

In 1997, a group of the Jagerettes persuaded the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to sue Sidney Frank Importing for sexual harassment on their behalf. They charged that bar owners, bartenders and patrons had harassed them and that Frank's company provided no protection. Some said they had been harassed by Frank himself.

The company denied the charges but paid US$2.9 million as part of a settlement.

"I never did anything that I wouldn't want someone to do to my daughter," he said at the time. Jagerettes still work the bars; male counterparts called JagerDudes concentrate on gay clubs.

Sid Frank was back on top. His art collection, now more impressive than ever, includes a Calder mobile that he sold for US$30,000 in tougher times and repurchased last year for US$500,000. In the Schenley days, he owned two Henry Moore sculptures; now he has 29.

Meanwhile, the Two-Billion-Dollar man works steadily at shrinking the remarkable sum from the sale of Grey Goose. He has hired a financial adviser to "teach me how to spend money" and consults closely with his daughter, Catherine Halstead, of Seattle, on major gifts. A son, Matthew Frank, lives in Marin County, Calif. There are undisclosed gifts to them, and foundations have been set up for his grandchildren. He has given millions -- he will not provide a sum -- to various causes in Israel, and he has made huge gifts to employees.

He is setting up what will probably be known as the Sidney Frank Foundation. "It will be big," he said, in an uncharacteristic understatement. "It will have more than a billion dollars to work with."

There has been speculation that, given his age and with Grey Goose gone, Frank might sell what remains of his company.

"Never," he replied. "We're doing extremely well, and we're rolling out some exciting new products. I believe in the old saying `Stay busy or die.' Besides, I'm having too much fun."

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