Robert J. Footlick, who was president of Bond Distributing Co. and a nationally recognized leader in the beer industry, died of cancer June 15 at his Pikesville home. He was 75.
The son of Bernard Footlick, a pharmacist, and Rae Footlick, a homemaker, Robert Jay Footlick was born in Mansfield, Ohio, and raised in Wooster, Ohio, where he graduated from Wooster High School.
After earning a bachelor's degree in 1961 from Tulane University, he worked for an uncle for a year before enrolling at the University of Maryland School of Law. He left after a year and transferred to George Washington University Law School, where he majored in labor relations and earned his law degree in 1965.
Unhappy with pursuing a career in law, Mr. Footlick went to work as a beer salesman for his future father-in-law, Edward Borow.
In 1950, Mr. Borow had established Bond Distributing Co. at Bond and Thames streets in Fells Point with 10 employees and sold Miller High Life, the "Champagne of Beers," throughout Baltimore.
In 1964, Mr. Footlick married Ronnie Borow, and after the death of his father-in-law in 1979, he became president of the company.
"Bob was the consummate entrepreneur whose vision led Bond to become the first shared house in the industry by bringing Coors Beer East in 1983, thus starting a wave of shared houses across the country that ultimately led to a MillerCoors merger," said Mrs. Footlick, who is director of human relations for Bond Distributing.
Mrs. Footlick said that in earlier years, distributors such as Bond only represented Miller and several minor brands like Carling and Schmidt's.
Today, in addition to MillerCoors products, the company's portfolio includes Sam Adams, Yuengling, Pabst, Blue Moon, Boulevard, Bell's, Terrapin, Ballantine, Fat Tire, National Bohemian, Harpoon, Yards, Flying Dog, and Jailbreak.
"We also represent about 20 craft breweries and all the new Belgium brands," said Mrs. Footlick.
Because of his leadership in the industry in Maryland and across the country, Mr. Footlick was named a Miller Legend in 2008.
Mr. Footlick was a tireless advocate for the products he represented and promoted. In 1984, the Orioles accepted his idea for the annual Floppy Hat Night, first at the old Memorial Stadium and now at Camden Yards, which promoted Miller Lite.
"For the first 25 years, the hat was orange, but now it has been black, camouflage and other colors. It was one of his proudest moments," said Mrs. Footlick, who added that the hat is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
During the 1990s, Mr. Footlick held a patent for the Rolling Six Pack Truck that toured the nation promoting Miller products.
Mr. Footlick had been a member of the board of the Maryland Beer Distributors for many years.
"I've known Bob for more than a decade, and he was one of a kind," said Pete Marino, vice president of communications for MillerCoors in Chicago.
"He had a tremendous way about him and a great sense of humor. He really cared about the beer business and in doing so became a MillerCoors legend," said Mr. Marino. "He was one of our best distributors. He was a terrific guy with a wonderful personality who just radiated charisma."
Mr. Footlick was an avid Orioles and Ravens fan. He enjoyed playing golf for 40 years at the Woodholme Country Club, where he had been a member of its board.
His philanthropic interests included serving on the boards of the Babe Ruth Sports Museum and the Maryland Sports Boosters.
Mr. Footlick's two daughters represent the third generation to work for Bond. His daughter, Leslie Schaller of Owings Mills, is the company's marketing manager, while her sister, Randi J. Settleman, also of Owings Mills, is sales manager.