Bourbon and Boards Mix

Bourbon and Boards Mix

Recently I came across a press release about Col. Mark W. Erwin — the former chief of staff of the United States Army Special Operations Command, which oversees all Special Forces operations of the U.S. Army — joining a bourbon distillery’s board.

I found the appointment interesting not only because I like bourbon, but because the distillery, The Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky, was forming a pretty high-powered board even though it’s less than five years old.

Bardstown independent board members also include none other than John J. Mack, the former chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, and Jeff Hopmayer, managing partner with The Brindiamo Group, a wine and spirits consulting agency. The chairman is Peter Loftin, a founding member of Bardstown. Founder David Mandell, the distillery’s president and CEO, is also a board member.

I decided to reach out to Mandell to find out why he thought building a board was so important.

“In a very short period of time, we acquired land, put together the best team and began operating the facility. Six months ago we opened a restaurant and bar,” he explains, adding that they’ve had great success. “It was a story of creating an exceptional team — the best distilling team, the best restaurant team — so when we talked about having the best team the conversation turned to having the best board.”

Mandell understands the value boards bring because he’s served on boards and was also involved with other companies that had boards. “A board provides good guidance, oversight, advice and strategic thinking.”

Those governance attributes are exactly what we see as the key elements of how good governance can benefit any company, no matter how old or how big.

To that end, our coverage in this issue provides insights from a host of directors and managers/owners at a wide array of companies at different points in their life cycles and with a host of ownership models.

Articles include one by Don Yee, an independent director for Blue Diamond almond growers, who provides his thoughts on how directors can serve as key advisers; another by Barbara Spector, editor-in-chief of our sister publication Family Business, on the importance of independent directors; and one by senior editor April Hall about how boards can help companies through crisis. For the cover story I talk to private equity investor, seasoned director, and cybersecurity guru Dave DeWalt, about  how private companies can be most vulnerable and what directors and management need to know.

If you have any stories you want us to pursue or to offer your feedback, please contact me at