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Raising his glass to firm’s success

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David Klein has the type of job that often sparks conversation, especially during casual conversation on an airplane. Once Klein mentions that he works in the alcohol beverage industry, people are eager to talk.

“Everyone has an alcohol story they like to share,” Klein says. “That’s one of the reasons why this business is a blast.”

Klein, 52, is chief financial officer and an executive vice president at Constellation Brands Inc. While he has worked at Constellation Brands for more than a decade, he started his current job in June; he succeeded Robert Ryder, who left the company.

Constellation Brands logged sales of $6 billion in fiscal 2015, which ended Feb. 28.

The firm ranked third on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of public companies. It has close to 6,300 employees, including some 660 local workers.

Constellation Brands is the third largest producer and marketer of beer for the U.S. market and the world’s leading premium wine company. The Victor, Ontario County-based beer, wine and spirits firm has seen massive growth over the years, including a $5.3 billion acquisition in 2013 of Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V.’s U.S. beer business from Anheuser-Busch InBev S.A.

Among the brands the firm picked up in the deal were Corona, Pacifico, Modelo Especial and Victoria.

Constellation Brands announced this month that it has inked a deal that should be finalized by year-end to buy Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, a San Diego craft beer maker, for $1 billion.

In his role, Klein is responsible for accounting, investor relations, financial decision support, financial planning and analysis, internal audit, treasury, tax and information technology. He is also a member of the executive management committee.

Klein likens leading the financial arm of a multibillion-dollar business that is still growing to being a member of a sports team defending its championship title.

“It’s about keeping that winning formula working,” he says.

Genesee County native
Klein grew up in Alexander, Genesee County, south of Batavia.

He received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from SUNY College at Geneseo in 1985 and an MBA from SUNY at Buffalo in 1989.

Constellation Brands hired Klein in September 2004 as vice president of business development. He also held roles as chief financial officer of Constellation Europe—living overseas a little over two years—and as chief financial officer of its beer division, when he spent time working in Chicago, San Antonio and Mexico.

Before joining Constellation Brands, Klein was CFO of the former Rochester-based Montana Mills Bread Co., where he led the transformation from private to public company and the subsequent sale of Montana Mills to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.

Klein also was CFO at NetSetGo Inc., a now-defunct Internet and network services startup that was based in Brighton.

Prior to those positions, Klein worked as the director of mergers and acquisitions at Xerox Corp. and as director of finance and accounting for Harris Corp.

Robert Sands, Constellation Brands president and CEO, said at the time of his promotion that Klein is the right person to help lead the business in its next phase of growth, calling him “a dynamic and effective leader with strong financial and strategic capability.”

Klein’s goal was to be in a top job in the financial field, and he believes his current role fits the bill.

“This is one of the best financial jobs on the planet,” he says, adding that the transition to the position this year was smooth, especially given his background on the beer side. “We are driving growth in the beer industry now.”

He is in charge of finance and information technology staff who work around the globe.

Strong team
Klein says having a strong team helps make his job run more smoothly. He likes to walk around the buildings connecting with other employees and gives them the autonomy to get the jobs done.

“I do pick specific things and dive in deep,” he says. “But when I’m comfortable (it’s going well), I take a step back.”

James Jenkins, a partner at Harter, Secrest & Emery LLP, has known Klein for 16 years, having worked with him when he was at NetSetGo and Montana Mills.

Klein has the ability to think strategically, while seeing every step along the way, Jenkins says. And Klein does not sweat the small stuff.

“He is extraordinarily smart, honest, hardworking and among the five or so nicest guys with whom I’ve ever worked,” Jenkins says.

He believes that is why people who work for Klein are eager to perform well.

“When Dave is disappointed or angry, it has a meaningful effect,” Jenkins says.

Klein also has learned from past mistakes, Jenkins maintains.

“By his own admission, Dave isn’t perfect,” Jenkins says. “He is, however, honest, and every effort he puts into a project reflects this honesty.”

Among Klein’s best assets is that he does not take himself too seriously, Jenkins notes.

“This sort of tapestry of personal and professional experience makes Dave a major asset to any organization,” he says.

While Constellation is a massive international business, Klein says, it still has a small, homegrown feel that embraces a family culture.

He attributes that in large part to the company’s top executives: brothers Richard Sands, chairman, and Robert Sands, its chief executive. Their father, Marvin Sands, started what is now Constellation Brands in Canandaigua 70 years ago.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” Klein says.

He enjoys interacting with the rest of the senior management team, who often have lunch together while getting business done. Their goal is to grow the company and create shareholder value, he says.

“There’s not a lot of bureaucracy,” Klein says. “We roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

William Hackett, president of Constellation Brands’ beer division, says Klein brings a range of experience to the firm but has always been open to input and different points of view.

“He is respectful of everyone in the organization, no matter their position, and is always ready to roll up his sleeves and pitch in,” Hackett says.

Klein is thoughtful, respectful and passionate about the business and its success, Hackett says.

“He is a man of character and strong values, is an engaged listener, and doesn’t take shortcuts,” Hackett says, calling Klein bright, articulate and financially savvy. “David truly cares about our business and our people, and it shows in his everyday interactions.”

Klein spends a majority of his time interacting with people. That includes discussing the firm’s financial status with investors or talking with the operations and sales side of the company, finding ways for them to best optimize their areas.

“I don’t get tired, but I often run out of day,” he says.

Klein believes he has a laid-back style, but says his family and friends say he can be intense when he needs to be. He prefers to keep things simple; his office, which is on the top floor of Constellation Brands’ headquarters at High Point, is clear of clutter.

The biggest challenge of the job is not becoming complacent, he says, which could be easy to do with a successful business.

“It would be easy to continue doing things the way we always do, but management here works hard to find ways to keep the momentum going,” Klein says.

Off the job
Klein is married to Janine Schue, chief human resource officer at Rochester Regional Health. The couple live in Honeoye Falls and have two adult daughters, Marissa and Kristen.

Klein enjoys bicycling, which he dove into rather abruptly when he agreed to go on a ride with friends through the Rocky Mountains—600 miles over five days. Klein had not ridden more than 10 miles at a time before the venture.

“I initially panicked, but we ended up having a great time,” he says.

After that ride, he began using the bicycle more, and it ended up being a family activity. When the family lived in Europe, they kept four bikes in their residence.

Klein also does some gardening and farming on the couple’s 20-acre property, and he enjoys a bottle of Corona off hours.

Working on his land brings a connection to his job, Klein explains, as the business is really based in agriculture.

He also appreciates the ritual associated with the industry, whether that be the tequila making process to how people choose the wines they are going to drink.

“There’s a rich history,” Klein says of the industry. “There’s an undercurrent of fun and a spirit of camaraderie.”

David Klein
Title: Chief financial officer, Constellation Brands Inc.
Age: 52
Education: B.A. in economics, SUNY College at Geneseo, 1985; MBA, SUNY Buffalo, 1989
Residence: Honeoye Falls
Family: Wife, Janine Schue; daughters, Marissa, 25, and Kristen, 23
Hobbies: Bicycling, gardening/farming
Quote: “This is one of the best financial jobs on the planet.”

11/27/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

In the Profile published Nov. 27, Constellation Brands Inc.’s total employment was misstated. It currently employs 7,700.

12/4/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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