The Man Behind Two Buck Chuck

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.
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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.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. In order to both celebrate and critique the industry, I started AdPulp in Chicago in 2004. In 2006, I launched and led an agency content department at BFG. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.