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Profile: Robert Sands

Robert Sands

Robert Sands

This story appeared in the RBJ’s commemorative 30th Anniversary section. See more content related to the RBJ’s anniversary here.

Robert Sands followed his dad and older brother at the helm of Constellation Brands Inc.

Without a doubt Sands, who was named president and CEO in 2007, has made a strong imprint on the company.

The company reached nearly $4 billion in sales in 2008. In fiscal 2017, its annual sales were $7.3 billion, up from $6.5 billion the prior year. For the fiscal year, Constellation Brands posted net income of $1.5 billion, or $7.79 a share.

A key deal that propelled that growth over the past couple years—and is expected to continue to drive that growth—was the $5.3 billion acquisition of Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V.’s U.S. beer business from Anheuser-Busch InBev S.A.

Under the agreement, Constellation Brands acquired a brewery in Piedras Negras, Mexico.

Sands is slated to be inducted this fall in the Rochester Business Hall of Fame.

Constellation, founded in 1945 by the late Marvin Sands as Canandaigua Brands Inc., began as a small bulk-wine producer based in Canandaigua with eight employees. Constellation has grown to become a significant player in the beverage alcohol industry with more than 100 brands in its portfolio, about 40 facilities and nearly 9,000 employees worldwide, including some 755 workers locally. Constellation is the No. 3 beer company in the U.S. with high-end, iconic imported brands such as Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Modelo Negra and Pacifico.

After taking over as CEO in 2007, one of Sands’ focuses has been “premiumizing” the business, or focusing on wines priced at $5 to $15 a bottle.

Constellation is the world leader in premium wine, with brands including Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Kim Crawford, Meiomi, Mark West, Franciscan Estate, Ruffino and The Prisoner. The company’s premium spirits brands include Svedka Vodka, Casa Noble Tequila and High West Whiskey.

Sands grew up in Canandaigua. During his summers, he worked at the winery in Canandaigua, moving hoses, cleaning the inside of tanks and chipping out crystallized sugar from the inside of tank cars.

He began his career working as an associate with Harter Secrest & Emery LLP and joined Constellation Brands 1986 as general counsel overseeing the company’s legal affairs, particularly acquisitions.

In 1993, he was appointed executive vice president and general counsel. In 1998, he was named CEO of Constellation International. In 2000, he became group president for Canandaigua Wine Co. and the U.K. Division, and in 2002 he was appointed president and chief operating officer for Constellation Wines and Constellation Beers and Spirits.

His brother Richard remains Constellation’s chairman.

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