The surprise is that the company is focused on anything. You'd think they'd still be nursing a hangover after the sale of its second-leading product line (behind Jägermeister). But when Frank agreed to sell Grey Goose, not only did no one lose a job at his importing company, everyone got a bonus. A big bonus, in some cases. Frank's secretary - he now calls her "the richest secretary in the world" - is rumored to have gotten one percent of the Grey Goose sale price. His omnipresent personal assistant, Donnie Duenas, who roams around Frank's apartment during our interview answering various questions that Frank yells out - "Donnie, what was the name of the basketball player who drank Jägermeister?" "Donnie, what do they call that sauce you put on asparagus?" - reportedly got $250,000. And plenty of the company's 150 employees received two years' salary. In cash. "We gave away a total of $22 million," Frank says. "Everyone in the company got something."
The bonus has helped keep everyone at the company going, Frank thinks, even in Grey Goose's wake. But he wants another big-brand breakout. "You ever heard of Red Bull?" he asks, explaining that a Red Bull-esque energy drink, Frank's first foray (independent of his company) into the $1.1 billion energy-drink market, could be that next big thing. "It's called Crunk. Tastes delicious."
Maybe so. But it's making me giggle. There's just something funny about an 85-year-old, ashen-voiced guy in bed, in his pajamas, saying "crunk." Still, Frank isn't the one pitching the product to consumers. He's got hip-hop singer Lil' Jon, the self-proclaimed King of Crunk, doing that.
Frank is smart that way. His marketing innovations over the past 30 years have helped him sell booze to legions of frat boys and millions of cocktailing yuppies. Among other things, credit Frank with the idea of having attractive men and women "model" adult beverages during promotional events. His Jägerettes and Jägerdudes sparked a slew of scantily clad copycats. And Frank's Grey Goose, a brand his company built from scratch, almost single-handedly created the superpremium category of vodka brands. But since Frank was already at retirement age when Jägermeister took off, and was old enough to be Sarah Jessica Parker's grandfather when she ordered a round of Grey Goose cosmos on Sex and the City, he hasn't made his brands about himself.
Except, that is, to the people who sell his brands to you and me - the liquor distributors. To those people, Frank is every bit as Crunk as Lil' Jon. To them, he's the king of booze. "Sidney is a showman," says William Wirtz, a longtime customer and friend who owns both the top liquor distributorship in Illinois and a controlling interest in the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. "When he walks into a room, he gets your attention."
No doubt he does. When Frank is doing business, distributors say, he's usually clad in either a green or pink sport coat and a big polka-dot bow tie. His cigar is lit, his voice is whirring, and, best of all, he's prepared. "Sidney is a tireless worker," Wirtz says. "That rubs off on everyone at his company. When you meet with them, they always have everything thought out - the demographics of the product, the right point-of-purchase displays, the bar promotions … everything it takes to sell."