According to Business 2.0, Fred Franzia, CEO of Bronco Wine, the nation’s fourth-largest wine company, is fighting a war against pretentiousness.
Hating pretentiousness isn’t just a business plan. It’s Franzia’s entire identity. His office is a wood-paneled trailer with carpet holes repaired with duct tape that looks like it might house the night manager of a troubled dude ranch. He uses his cell phone only in his car, and he has no computer; his assistant prints out his e-mail messages in the morning, and he handwrites his responses on them.
He’s worked in the wine industry his entire life, but he calls the grapes “varieties” instead of “varietals.” For a while, he has me convinced that he’s planted some weird grape I’ve never heard of called “moh-ver-dee,” until I realize he’s talking about the Rhône varietal Mourvedre. Driving by a guy selling fruit along the side of the road in the hot sun might fill some with pity, but Franzia looks on with pride. He pokes me with a thick finger and says, “That’s a real businessman.”
While the crudeness seems like a put-on meant to test opponents, it’s still startling. He’s a giant, 62-year-old former high school football player who looks like a cross between John Madden and Shrek, and he utters very few sentences that don’t contain at least one curse word.
The Franzia name may ring a bell. Fred’s immigrant grandfather got the family into the wine buiness in the San Joaquin Valley in 1915. Fred’s father sold that company to Coca-Cola in 1973, an act that caused Fred to stop speaking to his dad for seven years.