Albers, John Richard President/CEO of Fairfield Enterprises Inc., of Dallas, TX and former chairman/CEO of Dr Pepper/Seven-Up Companies, Inc., passed peacefully Thursday, Oct. 9 at St. Paul University Hospital following a lengthy illness. He was 77. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Oaklawn at Gilbert in Dallas, Rev. Philip Postel S.J. presiding. The interment will be at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, at 1:00 p.m. Visitation and Prayer service will be held Tuesday, Oct. 14 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home. The family is planning a memorial service at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, MN at a later date. A native of Minneapolis, MN, John was born Oct. 5, 1931, and had been a Dallas resident since 1964, when he came to Texas as a Grant Advertising Co. account executive assigned to Dr Pepper Co. and Burrus Mills. He was a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, MN, where he later made significant contributions to its continuing success. John served as a 1st Lt. in the U. S. Army from 1954-56, and returned to his native state to pursue undergraduate studies in economics at the University of Minnesota. He earned his B.A. in economics in 1957, and joined 3M Corp. as a sales rep, thus beginning a half-century long career in sales, advertising and marketing. In 1959, he joined Campbell-Mithun Agency in Minneapolis as manager of the Pillsbury account, beginning a 12-year run of advertising campaign management successes on major national food and cosmetic accounts, including General Mills and Alberto-Culver. In 1969, John founded Zapata International, a Mexican food franchise and restaurant chain, where he served as chairman and secretary treasurer until May 1971, when he returned to Dallas to reunite with Dr Pepper at the behest of the soft drink firm's legendary President and later Chairman, W. W. "Foots" Clements. John assumed management of the company's in-house, co-op ad group and newly-signed ad national agency, Young & Rubicam of New York; it was the beginning of a 30-plus year relationship that created Dr Pepper's most historically significant advertising campaigns, including the renowned, long-running "Be a Pepper" TV/radio offering that debuted in 1977. In 1974, John was made VP-marketing. The Dr Pepper/Y&R partnership continued to quickly broaden awareness for the non-cola beverage, and became instrumental in catapulting the regional soft drink to become the nation's fourth best selling, and number one non-cola soda pop. By 1981, Dr Pepper Co. purchased the soft drink division of Welch's Food Co., and was listed 598th in Fortune magazine's list of the top 1,000 U.S. corporations. The company bought the worldwide Canada Dry business in 1982, the year John left to manage a venture capital firm. He returned in May 1983 as president of Dr Pepper USA, responsible for providing sales and marketing support for some 450 licensed bottlers. John was made corporate executive VP, and in less than two years, Forbes later reported, "he had cut overhead in half and put the $13 million annual savings into marketing Dr Pepper." In the interim, the company had undergone a highly-publicized and successful leveraged buyout (1984) by Forstmann Little & Co., one of the earliest, most successful LBOs of the decade. Later that year, John was named president of Dr Pepper Company. The company flourished, and by 1986 had attracted the attention of investment firms, including one Dallas-based company owned by Thomas O. Hicks and Robert Haas. They, along with several banks, and corporate management, bought Dr Pepper Company. Within a year, Albers and Hicks & Haas, orchestrated the purchase of The Seven-Up Company of St. Louis; it was a scheme, presented by John and CFO Ira Rosenstein to Hicks & Haas, literally outlined on a cocktail napkin, long before such scenes became popular in movies and Wall Street lore. In 1987, John was honored by Beverage Industry magazine as its "Man of the Year". Superior advertising and market share growth continued to mark Dr Pepper/Seven-Up Companies, Inc. for the next five years enabling the firm to pay down its $1.1 billion debt and effect a successful IPO in January 1993. Cadbury Schweppes plc tendered an offer to buy the company in January 1995 for $1.7 billion, a deal approved a month later by the U. S. Federal Trade Commission. John left the company shortly after, ending a period of growth that from 1984 to 1995, that saw shareholder value increase by almost $2.7 billion. Always the venturesome entrepreneur and fierce proponent of American free enterprise, he formed Fairfield Enterprises, Inc., a diversified investment firm, serving as president/CEO until his passing. John was definitely an employees'/ bottlers' CEO. He loved the bottlers and had a common touch with a touch of class and dash like few in the soft drink industry; it was an unpretentious and cheerful style that wore well with everyone he ever encountered. John had great energy and an ever-positive attitude, walking the halls, knowing his employees and managers, and never missing a chance to learn about their jobs and families. He couldn't wait to get to work early and inspired great confidence among his peers and bottler partners. John significantly improved employee compensation and benefits programs, including issuing awards of company stock to more than 60 per cent of the employees. He felt that rewards were earned through hard work and team efforts to complete the mission of being the best. He often said, with a twinkle in his eye, "I can't believe that making and selling carbonated water and flavor can be so much fun." John and Janet Albers spent many delightful hours at the couple's Lone Oak Ranch in Blue Ridge, TX, where John enjoyed the rigors and rewards of ranch life, raising pure-bred cattle. The couple traveled extensively, almost always in the company of close, long-time bottler friends. John was instrumental in the creation of the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco, TX, where he served for many years as a distinguished director. The museum's original collection was obtained through John and Janet's generosity. After John retired from Dr Pepper/Seven-Up, he passionately pursued his entrepreneurial spirit in the development of numerous start-up companies through Fairfield Enterprises, Inc. He was active as a former director of Amerus Group, AMAL Corp., Dallas Academy, Cretin-Derham Hall High School and trustee of St. Thomas University, St. Paul, MN and UT Southwestern Medical Foundation. He had previously served on the Dallas Citizens Council, Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, Dallas Crime Commission and Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Dallas. Surviving John are wife, Janet, son, Scott Albers, Dallas, daughter Wendy Albers McDowell and husband John and grandchildren Micah and Matthew, Fairvew, TX; stepdaughter, Jennifer Harmening and husband Tom and step-grandchildren, Benjamin and Savanna, Burnsville, MN; stepson Jim Hearon, Winona, MN, sister-in-law Arlene Albers and family, Minneapolis, and many loving cousins and an aunt. John was preceded in death by parents Ray and Lillian Albers and brother Thomas Albers, Minneapolis. Throughout his life, John gave generous support to numerous schools and foundations. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to Cretin-Derham Hall High School, St. Paul, MN, Dallas Academy and/or UT Southwestern Medical Foundation, Dallas.
Published in Pioneer Press on Oct. 14, 2008.